The weed annals I

I’ve been slowly processing the plates from Farm Weeds of Canada (2nd ed. 1923; 1st ed. 1909), edited by George H. Clark, illustrations by Norman Criddle. Two previous postings: from 7/6/11, with thanks to Steven Levine for the gift of the book, plus two reproductions of plates:

19 Purple Cockle or Corn Cockle, 24 Purslane or Pusley

and then earlier today, a favorite and least favorite weed of mine:

53 Narrow-Leaved or Fragrant Golden-Rod, 45 Clover Dodder

Now, a few remarks on categorization and labeling, and then the first instalment of further plates from the book, for your enjoyment and pleasure.

Categorization and labeling 1. The work of people like Normal Criddle, who drew these plates, is often dismissed as mere illustration, designed to illuminate scientific subjects: it’s utilitarian work, not real art.  Variants of this argument reappear for other scientific and literary illustrators, and for graphic artists like Keith Haring (we are now, incredibly,  at the 26th anniversary of his death, as Arne Adolfsen reminded me yesterday) — graphic design or real art? — and for the assemblages of Marisol (which I ceebrated here yesterday) — knowing folk art or Pop? On and on.

These are discussions as much about the sociology of the art world as about the content, form, and nature of art, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely pointless.

Categorization and labeling 2. There have been a number of earlier postings on this blog about the WWI domain: weeds, wildflowers, and invasives. All three of these terms are at best semi-technical labels for an everyday, rather than scientific or truly technical, taxonomy — bit that merely makes them interesting to the linguist. Weed and wildflower are terms of long standing, but invasive as applied to plants is relatively recent; from the Dec. 2003 draft additions to OED2:

Of a plant: tending to spread prolifically or uncontrollably; encroaching upon or replacing other vegetation. [first cite 1928]

To these we can now add alien / introduced as applied to plants, indicating that the plants in some region originated in another region. (Both invasive and alien have taken on considerable political baggage.) Finally, there are pest plants, as in my earlier posting today: plants that are harmful to human interests.

The categories and their labels are related to one another in complex ways, obviously.

A set of nine plates. I’ve tried to  reduce the yellowing in the images, but some of them have aged; try to think of this as a feature rather than a defect.

Plate 3. Wild oats (Avena fatua):


Plate 13.  Lamb’s Quarters or Pigweed (Chenopodium album):


Plate 15. Russian Thistle (Salsola Kali):


Plate 32. Wild Radish or Jointed Charlock ():


Plate 38. Hardhack or Steeple Bush (Spiraea tomentosa):


Plate 39. Upright or Rough Conquefoil (Potentilla monspeliensus):


Plate 40. Common Vetch or Wild Tare (,em>Vicia angustifolia):


Plate 41.


Plate 42.


More to come.

2 Responses to “The weed annals I”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    What beautiful plates! Drawings do things that photos can’t.

  2. Brian Ashurst Says:

    We live near a small town called Chualar, which means Pigweed, so I was glad to see what it looked like!

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