Sunday, June 27, 2010

hoary cress

so I've been wanting to write about hoary cress for quite a while now, but have been distracted by a few other things.
I may have heard about hoary cress before two weeks ago, but I certainly didn't remember the term, and since I believe a great many of you must be in this same boat, I am going to forthwith tell you the story of hoary cress, as viewed through my (somewhat selective and slightly skewed) eyes.

many many years ago a wild and wicked weed lived a life of carefree bliss across the welcoming fields and vales of the balkan penisula, turkey, iraq, and neighboring countries.
one day a traveler set his tired body down upon a large and curved rock to draw a lump of bread from his sack and rest. the wind was mainly mild and gentle, but would occasionally burst forth with a small gust, sending loose leaves and tiny seeds scattering about. a small handful of such seeds, from the frothy, white-topped hoary cress, floated upon the gust and with its cessation, settled into folds in the weary traveler's trousers.
some weeks later our traveler found work in the alfalfa fields, harvesting and readying seed to be sent to market. a couple of the stowaway hoary cress seeds fell from his trousers into a bag that slowly worked its way from market, to a ship which bore it across the atlantic, to long island, new york, in the bonny year of 1862.

and from these few, errant seeds, this noxious, invasive weed has worked its way across our continent, infesting pristine areas and choking out native plants, often creating dense monocultures whose roots connect deep beneath the soil's surface.

thus many states, including our very own state of utah, send worker bees out in late spring and early summer to spray hillsides where the hoary cress has spread, reducing both biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
and it was two such worker bees I passed while on my slow-ride-on-chip-seal two weeks ago.
I saw the truck pulled off to the side of the road near little dell, and could tell the men working the hose were obviously spraying something up on the hillside. curious, I thought, as this area seems to be fairly well left on its own.
when I passed them again, on my way back up, I decided to ask what they were spraying for (against?) and this is when I learned of a noxious, invasive, white-crested weed named hoary cress.
[all research errors are my own, as the worker bees provided nothing but the name, a physical identification, and the two descriptors used above.]

there is always something to learn if one has a curious nature, and I'm sure my little but quite busy brain will never, ever, become full.

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