Giant Ragweed

Here and there at Camp Salmen are the tall, dark green stalks of my old friend the Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). It seemed it was the only thing spouting from the black, cakey, organic soils of the vast suburb built on an unfortunate, former-marsh that was the Metairie where I grew up. Huge banks of the stuff formed the back-drop of many of my outdoor adventures. 

 

 

 

The plant’s rough, dark green, trident-shaped leaves are coarse to the touch. They spout from ribbed, tapered stalks that hold the tall plant erect because of a white pith inside that probably has something to do with its structural strength, but was of no concern to a kid. What did matter was that these long, stiff stalks made convenient swords, pikes and thrashing weapons. The shallow root system allowed the plant to be fairly easily yanked from the ground, swaying a heavy clod of the black soil that added to its throwability. Clip this off, trim the branches and you had a handy spear. This rampaging youth was hell on Ambrosia trifida.

 

In return, ragweeds are a major tormentor to hay fever victims. Ambrosia has individual pollen grains that are tiny, spiky spheres of nasal misery that resemble tiny versions of those floating naval mines from WWII though Camp Salmen’s most popular pollen producer is Goldenrod (genus Solidago) with its clusters of bright yellow flowers that spew out massive quantities of fall pollen to cause an increase in local sneezing. 

 

It’s not hard to imagine that the term “rag-weed” is derived from the time people with an allergy had to carry around handkerchiefs all day (my Dad called them snot-rags). Fortunately, modern over-the-counter pharmaceutical science and the tissue paper industry have largely saved us from having to resort to using this obsolete, socially grotesque clothing accessory. 

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