Eloise Butler

The Writings of Eloise Butler

Tramp Plants, Migrants from Foreign Lands, Thrive in Minnesota; They Often Pre-empt Ground, Crowding Out Native Citizens of Soil.

Published in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune August 06, 1911

[Note: To facilitate identification of plants, we have taken the liberty of adding the information that is within square brackets and also all the botanical names have been put into italics. The language of Eloise's day is left as written. Additional notes at the bottom of the page.]

Bouncing Bet (Soapwort), Saponaria officinalis

Most of our vegetable tramps, like the human ones, are of foreign birth. These migrants from the old world, where the land has been cultivated from times immemorial, inured through fierce competition, have become adaptable and fit to cope with hard conditions.

Hence, when brought by design or accident to a new country, they pre-empt the land, wherever they can gain roothold, and crowd out other plants. Our native plants can hold their own on virgin soil. But more than seven evil spirits (weeds) enter into land once cultivated, and then neglected, and dwell there, and the last state of that field becomes worse than the first. The best remedy for weeds in constant cultivation.

Butter and Eggs
Butter 'n' Eggs, Linaria vulgaris

Some naturalized plant citizens, with attractive flowers, one might like to have in the garden, if they were not so aggressive. But, if admitted, they would selfishly shoulder out the weaker and possible more desirable inmates. The place for such vagrants is, therefore, the roadside where they will thrive on a hard bed and a crust of earth. Bouncing Bet and Butter ‘n’ eggs may be cited as examples. A blue ribbon should be awarded them for certain sterling qualities. During protracted droughts, when other vegetation has succumbed and even the grass blades have shriveled, they alone put out their blossoms and brighten what would otherwise be a bare and desert waste. The name Bouncing Bet (Ref. 1) probably refers to the luxuriant growth; but the other name, "old maid’s pinks", seems especially applicable. For to do their duty cheerfully under adverse circumstances is the metier of spinsters

The pale and the deep yellow colors of the flowers of Linaria vulgaris, so well set off by the slender, sage green leaves, are aptly characterized by the rustic name, Butter ‘n’ eggs. The nectar held in the sharp pointed spur lures the humble bee to the lips of the blossom, stubbornly closed, as in the related snapdragon, to other insect rovers.

Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum

Three sister composites - eupatoriums - grow together in the meadows. The homeliest, E. perfoliatum, has rather a coarse aspect, and its dull gray flowers scarcely command a glance from the passerby. Yet, under closer observation, they will not fail to please and will not be ignored when properly arranged in a vase. Every natural growth has a beauty of form, if not of color, that needs only to be seen to be appreciated. As Emerson said, “We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision.” Folks brought up in the old-fashioned way have a bitter memory of this eupatorium under the name of Throughwort or Boneset, which in the spring was dealt out copiously to every member of the household, as a thorough remedy to prevent or to remove influenzal bone aches and, in general, “to purify the blood.”

White Snake Root
White Snakeroot, Ageratina altissima

The tall Jo-Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum, succeeds the rosy-hued swamp milkweed in furnishing red tones to the meadows; a red, however, of a subdued, crushed raspberry hue. (2) It is named for a New England Indian, who concocted medicine from it for fevers that once had a ready sale.

The most beautiful of the eupatoriums is the White Snakeroot, E. urticaefolium, (Ref 3) also of medicinal repute. It is of value not only on account of its profuse, soft, starry inflorescence of harmonious white, but because it is easily cultivated and can be depended upon to bloom after frosts have set in. In one garden at least in Minneapolis, besides the wild one, where it stars the ground in late summer, it is the most prized ornament. The flowers yield not a whit in beauty to those of the ageratum, which they resemble so much in form that they once bore the name ageratoides - meaning like ageratum.

Woods without vines are comparatively bare, formal and unduly trim. Best of all, vines form tangles in which birds nest and sing. Of the annual vines, none has a more graceful and riotous growth than the common Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata). Lacking an upstanding object to embrace, it will run along the ground and form borders of bewitching spires of bloom. The fibrous, netted inside of the seed vessel, sometimes called balsam apple, resembles on a smaller scale that of a vine of the South known as the towel gourd, which is sold in the market as a bath sponge.

The gourd family can produce huge fruits, as the mammoth squashes and pumpkins, the prize winners of county fairs. Prominent among the tropical gourds - for the family is most largely represented in the tropics - is the calabash, whose hard-rinded fruit, when cleared of its contents, is indispensable to the natives as receptacles for food. The big pumpkins on a calabash tree might brain, in falling, the luckless wayfarer.

Wild Cucumber
Wild Cucumber, Echinocystis lobata.
Sweet Joe-pyeweed
Sweet-scented Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum

1. Bouncing Bet, also called Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis.
2. We wonder if Eloise listed the wrong species. She refers to meadows and replacing the swamp milkweed and then calls the color a crushed raspberry hue. All three are more characteristic of E. maculata, the Spotted Joe-Pye Weed.
3. White Snakeroot. In later years the scientific name was changed to Eupatorium rugosum, and very recently the plant has been reclassified into the ageratums as Ageratina altissima Eloise does not mention the toxic elements of this plant. Use the link below for this plant to read more.

Tours to the Garden. The following was also printed at the beginning of the text.

Miss Butler will conduct parties through the Wild Botanic Garden in Glenwood Park, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, meeting them at the terminus of the Fourth avenue south and Sixth avenue north Street Railway, Sixth avenue and Russell avenue, at 10 o'clock; also Saturday & Sunday afternoons, meeting then at 2:30 o'clock at the same place. One hour later on the same days, persons coming by automobile or carriage will be met at the entrance to the Garden, on the boulevard, at a point northeast of Birch Pond in Glenwood Park. To reach Birch Pond, turn in at the left on Western Avenue where the Park Boulevard intersects the avenue. Phone - T. S. Calhoun 1021; N. W. Main 4295.

More information and photos on some of these plants can be found under these links:

Butter 'n' Eggs

Sweet-scented Joe-Pye Weed

Bouncing Bet (Soapwort)

White Snakeroot

Wild Cucumber.