Thursday, April 16, 2009

Antennaria to Womb

I was half-lying, half-kneeling in a parking lot. A couple of kids sitting on the curb laughed, but stopped when I looked in their direction. When I passed them, a bit later, I held up the camera and said, "Tiny wildflowers!"

They were nice kids, really. They apologized profusely, and I laughed and told them I was used to looking ridiculous. Smiles all round.

Here's one of the photos:

Common draba, probably Draba verna, aka. whitlow grass.

We indulged in some undignified ground-crawling on Iona Island last week, too. What we saw:

Pussy-toes and Roadside Rock Moss, Racomitrium canescens. And a single Haircap moss stem.

Pussy-toes is a generic name for flowers of the Antennaria genus. Several of them grow in the Lower Mainland. I couldn't find any that matched this one, though. It has the tiny, spoon-shaped, hairy, basal leaves, the white wool on the single stem, the compact flower cluster, white flowers; it is growing in open, dry, well-drained land. But see those cute three-pronged stem leaves? I could find nothing to match them; most Pussy-toes stem leaves are lance-shaped (a long, pointed oval).

The Roadside Rock moss is one of the most common mosses in this region. It's even identifiable as you whiz past in the car; a yellow-green carpet on sunny rocks or meadows.

A forest of sporophytes on their stalks on unidentified moss.

Juniper Haircap moss, Polytrichum juniperinum. Like little starry flowers underfoot.

More Juniper Haircap.

Unidentified red moss, with Draba.

The Drabas are also called Whitlow grass, because
"they were formerly used for treating "whitlows" (inflammations of the finger-tip, especially next to the nail)." (Plants of Coastal British Columbia, Pojar & MacKinnon)
I looked to see if they were still in the herbal remedies for infected fingers, hang-nails and the like, but now the herbal remedies include neem, plantain seed, eggplant, or, in stubborn cases, onion. Whitlow grass has been found ineffective, evidently.

And I found an ancient treatment plan in an extract from The Lady's Assistant: Family Physician. The relevant passage is here. Warning: rather gruesome. And it veers off-topic, into "Womb, Falling down of"; not for the squeamish, at all.

And now, I have veered off-topic, too. I'd better quit while I'm still in the general vicinity.



  1. Whitlow grass is everywhere now, if people bothered to look. It's in my patio--but I have been too lazy to try to identify it.

    This was an extremely informative post. (Now we all know what a whitlow is!)

    Nobody is as diligent about the important tiny things. Great work.

  2. Thanks!

    So, did you click on the link to the remedies?



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