Updated: Feb 7
There's this thing that happens for some plant lovers. It happens when the plant that you want or need randomly pops up in your garden, or yard, or pot, and you absolutely did not plant it there. Somehow, some way, what you what you need just shows up.
It would be easy for skeptics to debunk this. Perhaps it had been there all along and I didn't see it before- like when you get a new car and all of a sudden see that car everywhere. Or maybe some of those seeds got mixed in with other seeds by accident. Sure- it's possible. And it's also entirely possible that plant grows in a pattern where some years it grows more prolifically than others. Very true.
But it's weird, man. Weird. And at the same time very very cool.
Let me tell you a little story.
The summer we moved onto our property I excitedly scoured the land identifying literally every single plant I could find growing here using multiple apps and field guides. I'm sure I didn't get every single one, but you get the idea. I was pretty familiar with what we had going on the property.
The next summer our woods exploded with Cleavers. I had never used Cleavers before in herbal medicine but remembered learning about it. Cleavers happened to be the remedy to an issue I have had since childhood, and still occasionally need today. SO many Cleavers grew in the woods that it was, to be honest, a complete nuisance. However, you do need a lot of plant material to make enough medicine worth using, so I had no problem ripping these suckers off everything they clung to in order to put them to use- a use I undoubtedly would need.
Not a great example, but just wait...
Last year while in the throws of the COVID pandemic, I (along with everyone else) really struggled with feelings of desperation, fear, and missing my family. St. John's Wort kept coming up in podcasts, or social media, or on blogs. This makes sense, since it can be a really helpful herb for mood and mild depression. However it made me realize that I really should be growing it. I bought some seeds and in the spring I started them in trays to transplant outside. As I chatted with other herb nerd friends about my interest in growing St. John's Wort, many expressed that they had a ton of it growing around them and were willing to share. So many people were talking about how they see it growing all over the place in fields, and I couldn't believe I didn't have it growing in mine. I checked and I checked and I checked our fields. Nothin.
Then this summer - BOOM!
St. John's Wort in the Medicine Meadow- wild
Tons of yellow flowering St. John's Wort all over the fields. Did I will it into existence here? I like to think so. There is no way my measly two plants spread enough seeds three acres away to produce that many plants.
But the biggest, most powerful calling in of the plants happened later this summer- really just a month or so ago.
In June, as a nice little addition to my 40th birthday in Costa Rica, I got COVID. It wasn't that bad at the time, but a week after I tested positive I had a pretty nasty infection in my lungs. I don't typically have respiratory issues, so I wasn't too worried at the start, but it didn't clear up, didn't go away, didn't get better. I wasn't trying to play around with lung health, so I went to the doc and they prescribed an inhaler, which helped. But I know enough to know I didn't want to have to use that except when my wheezing and breathing was bad enough. Unfortunately that was almost all the time.
After a month of still battling with inflammation, fluid build up, and an x-ray clearing me of pneumonia, I decided to try an herb I had heard a lot about from an herbalist I follow (Sajah Popham), and also one I had used with a client with similar respiratory issues.
This herb is no joke. It is not one that should be used by beginner herbalists, as it has been historically used by herbalists as an emetic. It's also known as puke weed, if that gives you the idea. But, as we see in much of medicine (and also life in general) it is very much about dosage. The amount used can make a difference between curing and killing, in an extreme sense. To fondly reflect on my days as an English teacher, this lesson was taught very eloquently in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as Fr. Lawrence explains how both plants and love can be good or bad depending on application, as he states, "Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;/ And vice sometimes by action dignified./ Within the infant rind of this small flower/ Poison hath residence and medicine power."
Damn, I miss teaching.
But, I digress. Lobelia. I knew it would probably work. It's an antispasmodic, and I tried to grow some from seeds this spring knowing it could be useful if any of us had lung issues. But my five plants (because many of them didn't grow to maturity) wouldn't cut it. I ordered some tincture from my dispensary, played around with how many drops ended up working by starting with three drops and going up from there, until I found the amount that calmed my spasms and helped me clear out fluid. That number for me was seven drops, in case you're curious.
Since July I have been using Lobelia for my post COVID lung problems. Although I find I have to use it less and less frequently, almost three months later I am still having random bouts of wheezing, shortness of breath, and spasms. Needless to say, Lobelia is my favorite plant this summer.
And now, she is growing all over the place.
In my veggie garden, I have found Lobelia. By my meditation labyrinth, Lobelia. In the medicine garden (where I did NOT plant it), Lobelia.
I couldn't believe it. I checked. Double checked. Couldn't be. But it is.
I would have noticed this before. It's a pretty little thing with cute flowers and these dainty bulbs full of teeny tiny seeds. I would have seen this because it's so freaking cute and would have looked it up. Definitely was not there.
OK so maybe your'e thinking- Well, Amy, you did start Lobelia from seeds. Maybe they got into other areas? Maybe your plants went to seeds and got spread around?
That's a nice idea, except for 2 things: 1- where they are all growing are very far apart- various parts of the property; 2- the ones I found are the same size (age) as the ones I started from seed myself. There would have been no time for them to grow to this size.
This year I also had about 5x more Mullein growing around the place, which is another herb used for respiratory issues.
Some people feel their dogs can sense what they need. I think that's what I have with plants.
How long have we been disconnected from our home, the earth? How much has been lost over time? Perhaps this synchronicity with nature was how our lives were intended to be- how great would it be to have things we need come to us, without us having to seek it out? Flowing with the seasons, connecting back with nature, being attuned to the subtle changes was a thing of the past, but it seems like that is exactly what we need today.