Purple Crown and Thorns

(I know Prince’s untimely death has hugged the news in the past several weeks and many people wrote articles with “purple” theme, but this post has nothing to do with Prince.)

There are things in this world that are unwanted.

When I went out for my morning run today, I came near a pond and a large mother goose was standing at the middle of the road. Nearby is her family. The protective mother goose stared and hissed at me. I was an unwanted guest.

I went slowly and timidly, as far as I can on the other side of the road, so not to agitate the goose further. After I passed them, they quietly slipped into the water and swam away.

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Not long thereafter, another bird, an aggressive red-winged blackbird hovered wildly above me. It made repeated dives on my head while chirping loudly. I think she has a nest nearby, and she’s telling me to go away. Definitely I was unwelcome there.

I probably would do that too, if an intruder whose intention I am not sure, would go near my family.

But there are other things that are unwanted and unwelcome, which we try to get rid of. Like weeds and thistles from our lawn and garden.

Back to this morning run, after my confrontation with the goose and the blackbird, I went out to the lonely gravel road to continue on my run, where I have not been for a while. There I noticed this purple thistle at the side of the road.

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I did not know that this weed, can grow this tall, as the moment we see it in our garden, we pull them out immediately. I did not know as well that it can produce beautiful purple flowers. Thorny yet exquisite.

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thorny crowns

This weed is known as the milk thistle (scientific name: Sylibum marianum). It was named such due to the milky sap that the plant produce when cut. It is native to the Mediterranean, but is now found throughout the world.

It is not just in the manicured lawns and gardens that it is unwanted. Even in prairies and pasture land where cattle roam and graze, farmers try to eradicate them, as they are considered noxious weed. The reason is it can be toxic to cattle, sheep and other livestocks, if they eat them.

So most of the time, this purple weed is left to grow only on the side of lonesome roads, or in wild, forsaken places. An outcast, if you will.

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But I will argue that despite being unwanted by most of the world, it survives. Defiantly existing to show its beauty for anyone who would stop and appreciate. It has spiny-edged leaves, prickly stems, thorny crowns, yet colorful blooms.

My little research also tells me that this thistle even though it is toxic to cattle and other ruminants, it is perfectly edible and safe to humans, provided we don’t eat the thorns. There’s even studies to suggest that it has medicinal property, like treatment for liver diseases, and also been looked at to treat cancer.

An unwanted and lowly prickly thistle. Yet there’s beauty and purpose for its existence. Just like many other things in our lives.

I know you have an annoying classmate or officemate that you wish would migrate to the moon. Or you have unwanted daily tasks that you wish you don’t have to deal with. Or you experience thorn-on-the-side everyday challenges that you hope to live without. And the list of “unwanted” things go on and on.

Yet they exist for a reason. We just have to look a little closer.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Tenacious Flowers

It’s May. And this month is known for flowers. Here are some that are found in and around our home.

There are flowers that are beautiful yet delicate, and we proudly display them for all to see.

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roses in the mantel shelf

There are flowers we have planted that we are excited to see as we wait for their yearly blooms.

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Alliums in our yard

Then there are flowers that are thought to be difficult to grow and bloom, as they need tender loving care.

orchid by the window

orchid by the window

But this time of year, there are also flowers in our yard that we neither like to display nor are we excited to see them bloom. In fact, we don’t want them to come out at all. They are not delicate, and in contrary they are tenacious and difficult to kill.

I am talking about these pesky dandelions.

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our front yard

Dandelions are considered weeds by most of us, and we hate to see them especially in our manicured lawns. Yet they thrive despite all the herbicides we use to try to eliminate them.

But do you know that there can be benefit of having dandelions in your yard? Really? Yes, really.

Dandelions can attract ladybugs who in turn can keep other pests population, like aphids, in check. Their long taproots can aerate the soil. They can also be eaten, as in salad, or drank, as in tea. Studies have shown that they are rich in vitamin B, C, D as well as iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. Those chemicals I mentioned are not from the pesticides we spray them. Those are good elements.

Even though dandelions are mostly unwanted flowers, one can argue that they can be beautiful too. I remember when my daughter was still a little girl, she used to pick these yellow flowers and put them in a small cup and give it to her mom. Even a bouquet of “weed” flowers can be a precious gift.

But it’s not their natural beauty that necessarily inspires me. It is their tenacity. Their persistence. No matter how hard we try to squash them, poison them, suffocate them, kill them – they still find their way to live and grow year after year. Or at least in my yard.

If only we have the same tenacity for life as these lowly dandelions. No amount of opposition, challenges, and discouragement can tramp our will to survive and thrive. We will persist whatever the circumstances may be. A lesson we can learn from this oft maligned “pest.”

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our “dandelion garden”

I know I have already called the lawn “doctor” to get rid of them, but now I’m having second thoughts. Maybe I’ll be organic and let them grow. Maybe I can convince myself that I’m cultivating a dandelion garden. However they will spread rapidly and through their airborne seeds they can even spawn the nearby perfect lawns.

My neighbors will not be impressed.

(*photos taken with iPhone)