Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bright in the Summer WInd

Orange Hawkweed, Devil's Paintbrush or Fox-and-cubs
(Hieracium aurantiaca)
Who would guess that the bright little beings nodding on the Two Hundred Acre Wood are not natives?  I've always called the fiery little flowers Devil's Paintbrush and assumed they are indigenous to our favorite wild place.

Sometimes also called Tawny Hawkweed or Grim-the-collier, the orange hawkweed is a wildflower native to alpine Europe where it is protected, but in this part of the world it is considered a weed and a pest.  The yellow form, Northern or Canadian Hawkweed (Hieracium canadense), is native, and it blankets our hills in summer, the two varieties often cavorting together in the wind on their long slender stems.

Hawkweeds are members of the aster (Asteracea) family and belong to the genus of sunflowers (Helianthus).  They are called hawkweed from their original classical name hierakion, and that word hails from the ancient Greek hierax, meaning hawk. As far as I know, there is no medicinal or culinary use for the hawkweeds, but according to folklore, hawks and falcons chew the leaves to improve their eyesight for hunting, and Goddess knows, hunting from way up there in the blue summer sky and looking down on the earth would require keen vision.

The tiny flowers are bright and wonderfully cheerful, and they carpet our hills from here to there in late June and early July, captivating us endlessly with their dance. Fine things sometimes come in very small packages and so often escape our attention as we ramble in search of larger wonders. We cherish our little suns wherever we find them.


Rowan said...

Weed or not I have them growing in my garden with an occasional serious pulling back within bounds. They are just beginning to flower now and they are a lovely bright patch of colour. I've always known them as Fox and cubs.

Tabor said...

This flower always catches my eye. It seems to just glow.