Monday, April 27, 2009

Tom the Wildflower Apologist

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

Maine abounds in spring-blooming wildflowers. These range from everyday types such as common blue violet and coltsfoot, to the ephemeral bloodroot, which, while beautiful in its simplicity, has only a brief flowering time. Add to this mix the different trilliums and a smattering of lady’s slippers and we have a delightful potpourri of natural beauty.

Springtime wildflowers have such visual appeal that even while driving down a country lane, these vernal blooms literally jump out at me. I often stop and gaze, spellbound at the wonder and beauty of nature.

So why, then, do so many property owners ignore these same plants that so thrill and mesmerize me? I’ll cite two cases, either of which serves to make my point. First, a man bought a beautiful, riverside estate, complete with fields, gardens and a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs. But the place also came with an untamed bit of land where several kinds of wildflowers grew. This was the place the man selected as a parking spot for his truck and also, some farm machinery.

In spite of this abuse, the wildflowers continue to sprout, although their once-Elysian setting now more closely resembles a parking lot.

The other instance of blatant disregard for existing beauty happened just the past week, on the road where I live. A landowner has decided to build a new driveway. All well and good. Unfortunately, the site is (was) occupied by an immense stand of purple trilliums. These were plainly visible from the road and many of us considered them indicators of true spring. Motorists, walkers and bicyclists marveled at the beauty of their deep-red blossoms. And now they’re gone.

This wasn’t the only available site for a new drive, either. But what are a few wildflowers, to someone who cares little for nature?

I’ve always felt that the flowers that grow here on their own rival and sometimes exceed cultivated varieties for sheer beauty. Perhaps someday, others will take time to kneel down and examine some of these hauntingly-beautiful flowers. And then, maybe, they will think differently about plowing them under. We can only hope.

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