If you want a Russian Thistle,
All you have to do is whistle –
In they tumble on the breeze.
An 1800s stowaway,
A foreign sprout who’s here to stay
Blowing ever West with ease.
Not a thistle, but as hairy,
From the steppes to claim the prairie,
Infiltrating cowboy lore.
Full of thorns and full of seeds,
These drifting immigrants are weeds
Just made to be a metaphor.
June is full of unexpected flowers –
We shouldn’t be surprised at such,
We know these buds exist in theory,
But we never think of them that much.
I don’t mean roses or hydrangeas,
Where the blooms are solely why they’re bought –
But rather in the offhand places
Where the flowers are an afterthought –
The lively sprays of privet blossom, say,
Or potato’s multi-coloured spawn,
Or dead-nettles with snakeheads raised,
And teasing frills of clover on the lawn.
For ev’ry showy thug like bindweed,
There’s small-and-many thyme and poison ivy –
Where oxeyes lord it over the daisies,
The plantain spikes are defiantly lively.
A shock of yellow in the verges,
Wastelands looking oddly brisk and bright,
And brambles showing their softer side,
While shy little sundews and chickweeds fleck with white.
They don’t do it for us of course,
These unassuming emissaries –
And we’ll forget, then be surprised again
By the Autumn’s unexpected berries.
Hemlock won’t kill us,
Despite all its poison,
(And not for the warnings that textbooks all parrot.)
For why would we eat it, right there in the hedgerow ?
It doesn’t look that much like parsley or carrot.
Since when do we sample the leaves and the berries
Of any old weed in the wild ? How bizarre !
We buy all our veg from the market and grocer,
Who hopefully know what the diff’rences are.
And meanwhile we cherish the monkshood and foxglove,
And nurture their weapons without any fuss.
But hey, there’s no danger admiring their flowers,
For light cannot carry their toxins to us.
Buttercups, daffodils, rosemary, poppies,
And holly and ivy, and conkers and yew.
We’re much more at risk from a field of grain –
From the carbs that we bake, or the booze that we brew.
Animals know well to leave them alone,
Whether ragwort to nightshade – just ask any herder.
And humans will likewise spit bitterness out –
So we won’t die of hemlock…unless it is murder !
Forests gone Stop Trees no more Stop From Formosa down to Singapore They hacked them down Stop Shore to shore Stop Felled them for the precious sap they bore
Send a message Round the globe To spare the trees that let your message probe Stop Send a message In good faith To spare the trees that keep your message safe Stop Send a message To the top Or else some day all messages must Stop
Perished rubber Turns to brittle Gutta-percha won’t degrade a little Latex stretches So does leather Gutta-percha keeps its form forever
Send a message Through the gloam To spare the trees that bring your message home Stop Send a message Dit by dah To spare the trees that speed your message far Stop Send a message Spare the crop Or else some day all messages must Stop
A Blackthorn Easter falls in March,
When Easter seems to come too soon –
But when it’s April, then we see
An Appleblossom Easter bloom –
And when it’s late, we celebrate
A Cherry Easter at its boom –
When leafless boughs are full of flowers,
Sprung from out of Winter’s tomb.
Bracken fronds have grown in Britain since the Ice Age quit the field,
But suddenly the Government has said that bracken has to yield –
And ragwort too, and certain thistles, though they’re natives to a leaf,
Are now declared as stateless species by the gardener-in-chief.
Buddleia, bamboo and Spanish bluebells get to spread their reign,
While good-old British dock is in the dock, as though it grew cocaine.
There’s plenty caterpillars eating all the native weeds that creep,
But legislators only care for what can feed our cows and sheep.
So throw them off the grouse moors, sweep them into gutters, dumps and ditches –
Can’t have plebby natives on our fairways or our cricket pitches.
Hack the forests down to make our rolling plains of pastures green,
Then wonder why these woodland plants are growing where the trees had been.