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ORRIN MORRIS: Shepherd's needle can cover your pant leg before you know it

Shepherds-needle Bidens pilosa 

Shepherds-needle Bidens pilosa 

The Gospel writer Luke includes in his account of the Christmas story the announcement to the shepherds.

"And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'" (Luke 2:8-11).

Sheep herders were the first mortals to hear the angelic announcement. Once I became old enough to learn what it meant to shepherd sheep, I wondered why they were chosen to first hear the good news. Theirs was a tedious and smelly job. Furthermore, sheep are among the lesser intelligent animals and require constant vigilance.

Could it have been that God saw in the unsophisticated shepherds an openness to the heavenly message that was not evident elsewhere?

Whatever the reason does not matter. One thing I know, no self-respecting manger scene would be without sheep and shepherds. This leads me to today's wildflower, the shepherd's needle.SHEPHERD'S NEEDLE

Bidens pilosaShepherd's needle has several names that seem to depend on the regional preference, beggar's ticks or beggar lice. Sometimes, the latter term is associated with any seed that sticks to ones clothing.

This plant may grow as tall as 3 feet with deeply dissected leaves. The favorite habitat is waste places, such as roadsides and briar patches.

The sketch shows the white bloom that has five rays. The flower head is surrounded by two sets of bracts. The seed, however, is thin and black with several barbed fingers that stick to garments more tenaciously than Georgia red clay to your shoes.

The worse thing about shepherd's needle is your pant leg can get covered and you won't know it until you sit down. Suddenly, you are aware that some of those barbs can reach through the cloth and catch hair, too.

May your Christmas season be free of shepherd's needles but filled with the good news that motivated the shepherds to be the first witnesses.

"And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us'." (Luke 2:15).

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His e-mail is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.