Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spanish Needles

You'd think that the name would have been enough to warn me.

It didn't, however, and it probably won't stop me in the future either.  Hopefully, in the future, though, I'll be a little more careful about limiting my exposure!

What am I talking about?  Why Bidens bipinnata, Spanish needles, of course.

You see, when this plant starts growing each spring, it is beautiful.  It is a deeply satisfying green, with foliage that gives the impression of ferns.  Maxing out at around 24" tall, while handling heat and drought without blinking, for most of the summer Spanish needles looks like the perfect plant for prairie gardens.  Around these parts, we need plants with pretty foliage - too many of our prairie plants have medium green leaves, of a medium size, on a medium to large plant.  Grasses provide the primary contrast, but trust me when I say they can quickly get to be too much of a good thing.   Ferns soften.  Soft green, ferny leaves enrich and brighten.  So ferny plants that don't melt away in heat and sun have an almost irresistible allure for me.

A tiny crack in this plant's perfection starts to form when it starts to bloom, sometime around mid July.  This gloriously ferny, sweet green, luscious mound of plantness puts forth dinky, insignificant flowers with tiny, yellow petals, many of which appear to be missing.  Oh, well, I tell myself, the foliage is still gorgeous!  If the blooms are not glamorous, at least they don't detract from that rich and wonderful foliage.

Before I know it, the seed heads are forming and are being pushing upward, on ever lengthening stems, to the outer reaches of the plant.  At first they look attractive, rather like green fireworks.  Ah, here is the beautiful bloom at last!

Then the seeds actually start to dry and mature.  Their color changes from green to black.  The base of the old flower dries out and its hold on the seeds loosens considerably.

Suddenly, every time I pass near one of the plants, I find that I have several long, black, needle-like seeds attached to my jeans...or my shorts...or my skin.  If I brush against them the wrong way, the darn things HURT!  They truly do feel like needles, trying to puncture me in their need for a new resting place.

Now, every time Becker and Blue go out, they come back covered with those same little, black needles that seem intent on burrowing deep into their fur.  The needles drop off onto the floor, ready to impale unsuspecting, bare feet.  Sometimes I even have to pick them out of the dogs' coats before I can simply give one of the dogs a pat on the head without skewering myself.  Small bowls full of Spanish needles start appearing on my countertops.

Meanwhile, outside, the plants have suddenly gone from glorious, ferny green to scraggly brown...weeds.  When I go to pull them out, battling the heat and drought just so that the poor dogs will quit coming inside with their fur full of these little weapons, I find that the plants aren't shy about puncturing my hide from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  It turns out that it's impossible to pull the dead stems of Spanish needles out of the ground without brushing various parts of my anatomy up against those fragile and determined seed heads!

"Carry me away from here!" the seeds plead, while clinging tightly, sometimes painfully, to my clothes and skin and hair.  "We're done here!  We need some place fresh to establish next year!"

Oblivious to their cries, irritated by their insistence, I can't wait to get all of the Bidens bipinnata plants pulled up and carted out to the burn pile.  Clinginess can be so darn unattractive!

So will I let Spanish needles grow up again next year?  Greg will tell me I'm nuts if I do.  He'll tell you I'm nuts, too!

Well, Greg knows me pretty well.  I probably will let the Spanish needles grow again next spring.  The lure of the beautiful, fresh green foliage is just so strong in the spring and early summer.  Next year, though, I promise myself I'll pull them up as soon as the flowers bloom!

Or at least as soon as the seed heads start pushing out to the plants' perimeter.  Assuming, of course, that the heat and drought don't have me totally boxed up inside....


Unknown said...

Next year, I get to take control of the plant


tina said...

Ha! I love these when they bloom! They are so sunny. But oh my it must be a pain to have the seeds stick to you all the time!

Mediamixer said...

Getting these little huggers out of the dogs fur is a nightmare. The thing about these plants are, the dogs eat the leaves all summer. Is that why they get all over them. We try to keep them in check but they are hiding then wow, more. A little exaggeration, but not much. I now know the name, thanks to you..they say it can be put in a salad, while green obviously, but it did not give a name to picture on the site I went to first.