Saturday, May 3, 2008

Poorman's Patch

Our friend Wayne has developed an interest in the poorman's patch, a bristly little flower found on Florida beaches. In our DVD, Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast, we warn you that if you get the leaf of a poorman's patch on your clothing, let it dry before you try to brush it off. Wayne provided us with this more literary view of the little plant, well as the lovely photo:

Excerpt from "In Days Agone: Notes on the Fauna and Flora of Subtropical Florida in the Days When Most of Its Area was a Primeval Wilderness," by Willis S. Blatchley. This particular excerpt was titled "Cape Sable and Key West in 1919."

Wednesday, February 26, 1919.-The cook at the Club House has a garden two miles east in the grounds surrounding an abandoned house. Dr. King took the mule and wagon and drove up there for turnips and beets, the only things left growing after the heavy frost of a month ago. I rode up with him and walked back, collecting on the way. The tracks of coons and wild cats were very plentiful along the roadway, and also in places those of a much larger cat, probably the Florida panther.

One of the vilest trailing or sprawling herbs on these prairie flats is the "poor man's plaster," or "stickleaf," Mentzelia floridana Nutt. It grows to a length of 6 feet, has very brittle stems, alternate ovate lobed leaves and bright yellow flowers nearly an inch in width. The whole plant, including the seed pods, is densely clothed with minute barbed stinging hairs. If one touches it or walks near it all parts of it break away and cling tenaciously to clothing and shoes; in fact so tightly that they cannot be scraped off, but remain until they wear away. The plant occurs frequently in open places in South Florida and also in the Bahamas.

And here is the ultimate one, found on a website about geocaching:

Ode to Poorman’s Patch

Waiting in the tranquil morning mist,
Listening to cardinals and crickets sing,
Conspiring with neighbors, steady with a patient look.
Branches of green and flowers so yellow,
Appear so harmless and innocent;Pure and uncorrupted by evil?
Until the passer-by brushes against its furred foliage
And touches the hairy leaves in haste
The poorman’s patch grows irate
And leaves behind a wretched and sticky gift!
Who hath been cursed by the Mentzelia floridana?
Fate doom’d the hike of every strider in its path.
The smart sufferer must not launder thy attire, No!
Instead, fear it, but first allow thy garb to dry for days,
Until the poorman dessicates and becomes waterless.
Then with a knife, ye must scrape the wretched leaf;
Chafe and rasp and scour and scratch and scuff,
And the once wicked leaf will be never more.
Handsome as a primrose and incapable of giving pain,
Yet one soon comes to avoid him swiftly.

Perhaps first appearing in the Botanical Gazette, Feb. 1879, in an
article "A Visit to the Shell Islands of Florida," by A.H. Curtiss.

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