In the book of Deuteronomy, the Hebrew people were given a very interesting instruction about harvesting their grapes. "When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow" (Deuteronomy 24:21 NIV).
The farmers were instructed to gather the prime harvest but not go back two or three times to claim all of the crop. The Hebrews recognized that the harvest was provided by God because the farmer dressed the vineyard but did not make the vines grow. They were to treat the harvest as a blessing from God.
The leftovers were God's provision for the impoverished aliens, widows and orphans. I find it especially interesting that the first category of people with access to the leftover harvest was the alien. This positioning of the alien in this verse may have been a reminder to the Hebrews that they were once aliens.
Is there a message for us, too? Our national wealth is primarily dependent on natural resources. Intellect and brawn are important, too. But many of the world's impoverished nations lack the natural resources we take for granted.
We must transition from the vineyard to another vine for this wildflower. It is easily overlooked because it is small and not brightly colored.CLIMBING MILKVINE
Matelea carolinensisThe climbing milkvine is native to the Southeastern U.S. and blooms any time from April to July. It can be found twining in thickets of hardwood or along the banks of streams. On rare occasions it has been seen in open areas.
Another name for this plant is spiny-pod, a reference to its seed case. Some resources list it among the brown blossoms but others refer to it as maroon. Those in my woods are brownish-maroon. A third name that some use for this plant is maroon Carolina milkweed.
The 3-by-5-inch leaves are a distinct heart shape with the rib veins alternating as pictured.
The five-petal, -inch bloom has a black center from which emerges the stamen and pistil. The outer rim of that "tube" is white, giving it a distinct appearance.
The sap of the climbing milkvine is milky and since the plant is climbing, it naturally inherits its name. Though it looks nothing like the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), its sap is the key.
There seems to be no modern medicinal usages of any of the species in the milkweed family. That is unusual since the sap is distinct in color and texture; however, the butterflies and dragonflies find the blooms a special treat.
This lowly Milkvine reminds us that nature blesses us with blooms that are not always brightly colored and big. In the same way God's love extends beyond the privileges of a long heritage to the lowly alien, to the fatherless and the widowed. May we be good stewards of our wealth and learn generosity at the feet of our Lord who sacrificed it all for us.
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers.