Observing the delicate ring-neck doves in the pasture pecking at the Dove Weed brought to mind what exactly it is they are eating. Some research in hard copy books on California plants identified the common name which led to a Wikipedia search of ‘Dove Weed.’ This low growing plant is an annual indigenous to West America. The plant comes in summer and is gone dormant by the end of fall. The revelation is that the plant ‘Eremocarpes Setigerus’ is a member of the Spurge ‘Euphorbiaceae’ which is one of the bigger families in all of Plantsville. All members share the common physical trait of emitting a milky substance when a twig is snapped off. The Dove Weed is poisonous to animals and is carefully avoided by the sheep. The wild dove and wild turkeys love to eat the tiny seeds, the plant is also known as Turkey Weed. Native Americans ground up the leaf and sprinkled it in water to stun fish, said fish would float to the surface and be scooped up by the clever Indians. Who knew? One feature of the weed is odor, I’ve never found it to be disagreeable until now. I picked a delicate branch and took a whiff which has a familiar but not disagreeable scent associated with summertime in the local pastures. The twig sits next to the computer desk as I type. The odor has become cloying and almost sickening, it permeates the air and has changed my opinion of the plant.
One Spurge family member we are familiar with is the Poinsettia. Forced to grow in the dark until the holidays forces an enzyme to emerge that is bright red, a Christmas color. Left to normal growth in the light the Poinsettia is white with green veins. This version also appears during Christmas but is seen as an exotic by the retail market.
September twenty-second is the official end of summer, the fall colors have already signaled the waning summer, a fair sprinkle of rain last week kicked the heat down for a few days. Hot days are not rare in October nor are heavy rains. This also signals the beginning of the fungal season and the harvest season in our agrarian community. This years’ spring lambs will be moving on soon to make way for next years’ lambs who will start the annual cycle again. The grape harvest is underway which has benefited from the hot temperatures of August and September, the heat raises the sugar levels which is a primary indicator of harvest. In the ‘old’ days grapes were carried in wooden fruit boxes on the back of farm trucks. The grape juice flowed on the way to the crushers and made the 101 on-ramps sticky during this time of year. Autumn is the time of year for students to buckle down and hit the books for the growth of brain cells. Harvest in brains is seen as maturity, not a trip to the butchers, like lambs and pigs and apples and such.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.