Yesterday I visited Second Nature , a beautiful garden center and landscaping facility a few miles south of town and spoke with the owners about how best to keep down the highly invasive and unpleasant wild parsnip which is rampantly overtaking much of the roadside and open spaces all over the state. Some of it has found its way into our meadows. I learned that this plant is a biennial and doing some internet research I have also learned that it is all over the midwest and rapidly becoming a matter of concern on many levels. We dug out the few plants we spotted here last season but being a biennial we missed those which were not blooming, not calling attention to themselves.
To learn that once you've been burned by the sap of this plant, which makes your skin highly sensitive to sunlight, that site on your body can be injured again when exposed to the sun for up to ten years, was more than frightening. Digging out the plant would be best but being a parsnip the tap root could be several feet long. Cutting off its head would cause it to try again to flower and produce seed which would require constant monitoring over the growing season to eliminate any chance of seed production. Most land owners might choose not to tangle with it at all, just letting it grow, or might choose to keep the land closely mown and thereby destroying all the beneficials at the same time. A deep dilemma.
Our meadows are surrounded on 3 sides by commercially farmed fields of corn or soy bean. They are treated every season with herbicides. I find myself strangely glad for the first time since planting myself here that the chemically treated lands around me do not allow the wild parsnip to take hold.
The fourth border of our property is our road and across this are lands mostly mowed or brush hogged so any plants growing there would continually lose their heads. But the wind and the birds and the pollinators bring in seeds of all types and so there are a few bullys in the community.
We'll do our best.
Quite by accident this morning I learned that today is the second annual celebration of National Meadows Day all across the UK. A staggering 97% of the UK's natural meadows have been lost since the 1930s. And with them the diversity of life they supported.
So here in the driftless region of the American midwest, this lovely sunny second Saturday of July, on
the ridge meadow we love so well, I proclaim it to be National Meadows Day as well.