Thursday, July 03, 2008

Time for a Little Joy

Butter and eggs is one of my favorite wildflowers. The name alone is enough to intrigue me. It’s so descriptive yet so unscientific. I tire of logical, scientific descriptions in the names of things. Those kinds of names just feel so bland and lacking in joy after a while. I find nature endlessly joyful, and I believe names should at least attempt to capture that. Can you blame someone for not wanting to rush right out when they hear Clay-colored Sparrow? I mean, really, aren’t they all, just about? Or Smooth Hedge Nettle? That doesn’t sound very exciting either, though it has a lovely little flower. But a name as simple as butter and eggs, how could you not want to see that?

Another common name for butter and eggs is toadflax, which isn’t bad either, though simply isn’t as pretty a name as butter and eggs. It’s also called brideweed, bridewort, butter haycocks, bunny haycocks, cat’s snout, dead men’s bones, devil’s flax, eggs and bacon, impudent lawyer (now there’s a good one) and lion’s mouth, to name just a few. And I do mean just a few.
The plant is a favorite with bees, bumblebees, moths, butterflies and other strong insects. Because the flower’s underlip is largely closed, wimpy little insects aren’t going to be able to pollinate it.

As so many of our North American plants are, butter and eggs is not native to the U.S. It’s native to Europe and "escaped" from early settlers’ cultivated plots. Today, of course, it is common along roadsides and well-drained areas. I found this one this morning on a bank, growing next to chicory and assorted other plants that are happy to be feral , just like me.


Lynne said...

I've always loved that name too. How about Bird's Foot or Pussy's Toes? They look like their names. But I saw Nodding Beggar's-ticks in my field guide! It's a pretty yellow flower, but where'd they get THAT name?!?

LauraHinNJ said...

That's a pretty one for sure - lovely shade of yellow.

I prefer the common names, too - so much more interesting!

AlaskaSteve said...

Nice pictures and I like how you feed your spirit in the outdoors - cheers

Anonymous said...

I've never seen that wildflower before! I too love the name butter and eggs! Great picture and flower.

Dana Jones said...

I don't think I've seen this growing in my part of the country but it could exist and I just missed it. The blooms really beg for an unusual name.