Posts Tagged Yellow Toadflax

Still Life Set in a Cityscape

Still Life Set in a Cityscape . . .

Butter & Eggs by the Stump

Butter & Eggs by the Stump

The City Still Life, continued: Ideas or Ideals?

October brings a new, almost kinetic view: warmer colors spread in the foreground as the backdrop of sky, like the temperature, reflects colder hues. Bright, or subdued, autumn’s more visible variety can shift one’s attention and shape it toward color composition. Hikes along a river lined by trees showing ever less chlorophyll have fueled thinkers too numerous to list anywhere but in some form of comprehensive Encyclopedia Autumnus.

One subject: The City Still Life, con Flores, im Herbst (“with flowers, in Autumn”) often pops up besides the trees that can no longer leaf. The stump, the rooted gravestone of a neighborhood tree, low to the ground, overlooked, left alone, or still in line to be removed, centers a wild space that may be encircled by plantains beaded by rain, nightshades gathered in miniature copses, or scatterings of less dispersed species:

Chicory, Chicorium intybus

Chicory in October

Chicory in October

Mallow, Malva neglecta

Mallow in October

Mallow in October

Yellow Toadflax (Butter & Eggs), Linaria vulgaris

Yellow Toadflax in October

Yellow Toadflax in October

Conscious tree cutting and removal always depresses me, more for the fact the tree cannot be left to compost where it comes to lay. A green space more sustained by itself by letting it be would better reflect its organic natural history. Spaces may be shaped, that is understandable. May it also be comprehended that a city park curated as a rotating clean slate may not be ideal when applied in a universal, as in monolithic, manner? Stumps add character and the distinctive wild space equivalent of a still life set in a greater landscape, or cityscape.

– rPs 10 07 2014

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The Breakfast Bloom

The Breakfast Bloom . . .

A patch of Butter-and-Eggs, Yellow Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, blooms beside the bike path along the West Side Highway. (photo taken 09 17 2011)

The story of many immigrant wildflowers begins with imported seed that arrived laced with a hitchhiker, a plant variety that over time would go against the grain in a very different sense of the phrase. Once established in some New England field, the rest of the tale became the incremental spread of a European or Asian green immigrant from one blue sea to the other. Escaped and naturalized, some have become part of home remedies, regional folklore, even the incidental detail of fine artworks. Of these, one of the most notable, and beautiful, is what I like to call “the breakfast bloom” – Butter-and-Eggs, known also as Yellow Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris.

Yellow Toadflax is a perennial and a ruderal of European origin, which together explains the familiarity of this wildflower. One sees it appear every year as summer passes into autumn and the plant blooms in those under-grown areas where it can stand out such as roadsides, which is where I found a patch growing, and blooming, in the West Village: beside the bike path that parallels the West Side Highway.

This wildflower is easy to identify. The leaves are linear, thin and spiky, and alternate up the stem to the blooms. The individual flowers are irregular, end in a long spur, and are butter yellow with palates the color of egg yolks. There is a close resemblance to cultivated snapdragons. In fact, that is an apt comparison, as both belong traditionally to the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae. The snapdragon has been moved recently to another, Plantaginaceae, based on DNA sequence analysis, but like the snapdragon, the flowers of Yellow Toadflax grow in clusters, in terminal racemes, which can last a long time set in a centerpiece vase on the breakfast table.

A terminal raceme of blooming Yellow Toadflax, close up, reveals the Butter-and Eggs coloration. (photo taken 09 17 2011)

–  rPs 10 16 2011

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