The wildflower bedstraw (Galium tinctorium) we examine today is a bothersome species that grows everywhere you do not want it. It reseeds itself with abandon and new plants appear from March through August as long as there is enough moisture.The white flowers are so small that they are rarely noticed. What we do see is the fascinating patterns that the leaves form.
That brings my introduction back to my art students. An essential part of drawing is seeing as an artist. As children develop in the control of their fingers and hands, they must also develop their seeing. They learn to see shapes, values, textures and patterns.
The wildflower plant for today provides a special adventure in seeing as an artist.Bedstraw
Galium tinctoriumDuring Colonial times, settlers from Europe used this plant as a straw to pack the homemade mattresses. However, for centuries this amazing wildflower had provided dyes for clothing in many cultures, as well as herbal medicine for stomach ailments, aching muscles and wounds.
Furthermore, the yellow bedstraw has been used in cheese-making because it causes the milk to curdle quickly and enriches the product's color, according to Jack Sanders' "Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles, The Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers."
The bedstraw that is featured here has a white bloom that rarely measures more than 1/16-inch diameter. It has four tiny petals and thus has had religious lore attached across the centuries.
Christian groups of various theological persuasions often associate religious significance to four-petal blooms as reminders of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the case of bedstraw, the lore has that this plant was mixed in the straw of Jesus' manger.
Several of the 40-plus species of bedstraw in North America stand erect, attaining 2 to 3 feet. The more common variety in our area tends to recline, rarely standing more than 1 foot.
The leaves are the most eye-catching feature of this weed. They occur along the thin fibrous stem as whorls of five to eight leaves.
Several years ago, I saw one species in the crack on the sidewalk beside the former Tattersall's Book Store in Olde Town Conyers. That's one tough species, I thought to myself. It had six leaves in each whorl of the spatulate style, that is, very thin at the stem and round at the outer end.
Some varieties have broader leaves and others have very long leaves, up to 3 inches long. Most that I have seen are smaller, ranging from to 1 inch long. The illustration tries to capture several of the leaf patterns that I have found fascinating to observe, as an artist.
An old adage says seeing is believing. That applies to many things in life.
When Jesus was instructing His disciples late in His ministry, He said that the kingdom of God is not something you will see (visually perceive), nor something that "they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst" (Luke 17:20-21).
There are no thrones as earthly kingdoms require; the kingdom of God is manifest in the deeds of His believers who serve others.
Are you a part of that kingdom? Jesus said, "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 770-929-3697.