Project Budburst in our backyard.

I’ve been having a hard time finding a reason to be inside over the past few days. Spring is blowing my mind. Perhaps I thought my fascination would grow less as I “matured” and grew older…. Actually, I find myself draw it to even more every year- a source of reliable wonder and marvel to sit back and observe.

Purple violets (Viola odorata)

Violets always remind me of the Herbal Kids Club at Rachel’s place- because the kids ate violets like mad after that. Always the grin and the explanation- “we need more Vitamin C”. We know these particular violet friends are edible because their leaves are shaped like hearts.

White violets (Viola odorata)

The “odorata” comes from the sweet smell or taste of the flowers and leaves.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Amy helped me recognize this last weekend when she picked up a stash by her feet, and now I can’t help seeing it everywhere. Our chickweed herb friend is quite eager to make an impression- it flowers and sets seed at the same time.

It is a favorite of herbalists. The fresh leaves can be used as a poultice for inflammation. Chickweed is an excellent source of many B vitamins and various minerals. It is used to treat bronchitis, pleurisy, coughs, colds, and as a blood builder. Its astringent properties can be used on the skin after it is brewed as a tea. Its leaves also make a tasty addition to salads, very popular in Japan.

To make chickweed infusion, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1/4 cup of chickweed. Cover and let steep, off the heat, for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain out the herb and drink the tea hot.

The importance of this tiny plant is easy to overlook unless you examine its role in local food webs. The larvae of the North American moths pale-banded dart (Agnorisma badinodis) or dusky cutworm (Agrotis venerabilis) or North American butterfly dainty sulphur (Nathalis iole) all feed on chickweed. Wildman Steve Brill has a great page devoted to different species of chickweed.

You can contribute to the Project Budburst citizen science project by adding the budding and flowering dates for your backyard wildlife. I loved sitting down with Max and reviewing our nature journal entries together, looking for dates and particular species. After we added our data, we looked at the state and national maps to see when violets were blooming in other parts of the country. Such a wonderful way to nourish a conscious appreciation of spring’s stunning annual show.

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