What IS a Teasel?
Without a doubt, one of MY favorite plants.
Many of you have seen them along roadsides and out in fields, but probably not thought much of them; perhaps that they’re ‘just thistles’.
The dance going on in that field, along those highways, is quite amazing.
Our wild Teasel, Dipsacus sylvestris, is, as Matthew Wood says, “a biennial, except when it’s not.” A true biennial makes green leaves the first year and then flowers, seeds and dies the next. Not so with the Teasels. Some of the green rosettes merely choose not to bloom this year and grow bigger and bigger, while other very small ones will send up wee flowers, even after having been mowed or weed-whacked.
I’ve had the immense privilege of living with Teasels just ALL around me this year
and I’ve photographed them the entire time.
In late winter/earliest spring I noticed something quite astonishing. The previous year’s seeds had germinated IN the seed head and the rainy winter here in Oregon sent the normally stiff, strong stems bending gently down to deposit the babies right on the moist, waiting soil.
Here you can see how the spray of seeds from a mother plant deposited her new rosettes right at her former ‘feet’.(with a few Swiss Chard neighbors there coming back to life as well)
These are the rosettes we dig for the fresh roots.
Come High Summer, we enter a time I’ve come to call “Teasels RISING” where they begin to STRETCH upwards to the sun. You can almost HEAR them.
It’s at this time that they begin to make the cups between the leaves and stems that collect the Faerie Water, which has had all kinds of magical qualities attributed to it from preventing facial wrinkles to merely keeping non-flying insects from pollinating the flowers when they appear.
I grew up with Holy Water Fonts as a kid, how wondrous to find them outdoors!
And then the FUN begins. Teasels bloom in rings that begin in the CENTER of the head
and go both ways. The bees just LOSE their minds rolling around in the tiny lavender blooms.
Once they bloom, they become seed producers and the root has no medicine to offer, but even where the towering stalks reach for the sky, at their feet are more rosettes, so here in Oregon where we don’t get fierce freezes, digging can happen nearly all year long. And on goes the cycle
But it was at this point, when the stalks were sculpting their now dry leaves into all manner of graceful curls......
...that I swear I heard them TALKING. It was such a distinct sound that I spun around in the garden to see where it was coming from. It was a totally dry, sunny, breezy day.
Once I realized it was THEM, I just stood and smiled and LISTENED.
The only description I can give is of ‘elders excitedly whispering’
The longer I watch them, the more magic I see...
And then, the tincturing begins.
With my trusty spading fork I can easily pop the rosette roots out of the ground,
whereupon the roots are scrubbed (and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed),
the hair roots cut off and what emerges but...
and you all thought it was just a roadside WEED.......
Perhaps, like me, you now see them a little DIFFERENTLY......
These majestic beings, THIS medicine, cured me of Lyme disease when any MD would have told me I should have DIED. Eight cases over FIFTEEN YEARS. And I’m WELL. If this photo-essay shows a fraction of the gratitude I feel for these beautiful plants, I’m truly PLEASED.
all photos (c) LadyB 2008