Yesterday, John and George had a good time searching for Mistletoe in the Mariposa Cane Slough Preserve in Pt. St. Lucie. This beautiful scrubbish hammock is pure nature joy. And it is in the newspaper, having its grand opening today (12/3) as this is being typed. It is an example of the great green things a coalition of green-lovin’ friends of the earth can achieve. Click for Mariposa
The mystery of MCSP is: “where’s the Mistletoe”? (Phoradendron leucarpum) At the southern tip of the Oak Mistletoe range, the species inhabits St. Lucie County, and it is reputed to be in Mariposa. We looked and hunted, but Christmas kissing in the Preserve this year must occur without Mistletoe. Those big old trees are covered with vines, ferns, Spanish Moss; trying to spot the Mistletoe was too needle-in-the-haystack for us at the moment, so on to more earthbound plant…
Setting aside an orchid or two, the dominant floral displays yesterday came from the Aster Family, starring Hammock Snakeroot (Ageratina jucunda). Now we digress a moment, but don’t worry, it all comes together.
A more northern species of Ageratina (White Snakeroot, A. altissima) is the cause of Milk Sickness which afflicts cattle who eat it and people who drink the tainted moo juice. The disease was epidemic in the early 1800s in the greater Ohio Valley Region, and killed seven people in Little Pigeon Creek, Indiana in 1818, including Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks (Lincoln).
Ever notice the resemblance between Nancy Hanks, Tom Hanks, and Honest Abe? It is not coincidence.
Also in flower yesterday was Jack-in-the Bush (Chromalaena odorata). If we turn back the hands of time, this species, Hammock Snakeroot, and White Snakeroot all used to be classified the genus Eupatorium before contemporary taxonomists messed with our minds slicing and dicing the genus. Geezers like John and George have the older Eupatorium names lodged in our synapses.
The easiest way we know to distinguish Ageratina from narrowly defined modern Eupatorium is to look at the phyllaries (the little bracts around the flower head). In true Eupatorium the phyllaries are conspicuously of two lengths, whereas in Ageratina they are nearly all equal, with a smattering of odd little outliers.
We like Eupatorium, because the name has soul—for King Tiberius Julius Eupator Philocaesar Philoromaios Eusebes, better known as King Eupator, who reigned over the Bosporus in the late Roman Empire.