Monday, April 28, 2014

The Disappointment of the Letter X

Big X: An X on the asphalt in a parking lot. I may reshoot this sometime in the future, I was less than happy with the lighting.Please do not download these images and post them on other microstock sites as your own work. Photos on RGBStock are NOT copyright free
Source: dlritter
The Letter X

X...Y...Z   and then we are done!!

X is for Xanthium

My grandmother Amy Lucy Peck was a brilliant woman.  She surrounded herself with poetry books, biographies, theology, and books on science.

My Grandmother Amy, about 1916

She became a pharmacist in 1916, a difficult career move for a woman of that era.  When Grandma died in 1972, she left me a number of these collections.  Most interesting were the books on science.

In Gray's School and Field Book of Botany by Asa Gray, she assiduously (!) made notes in the pages and pressed leaves. A rather vague comment was on the page for "Xanthium".  Xanthium--such a lovely word! I thought. 

Source: caf.wva,edu
The definition of this delightful Xanthium is:

  A coarse and vile weed, with stout and low branching stems.
  Grows in barnyards and waste manured ground, about 1 to 2 inches high

  ....hooked leaves and the fruit is a burr fully 1/2" long, with 2 beaks at the apex

  ....numerous prickles with sharp bristles.

What!! What?? The Xanthium is a burr plant? The kind that catches on socks, pants, every fabric, and resists removal?

I was severely disappointed by this.  I am sure you are as well.

Please share your experiences and/or thoughts of the hated Xanthium.


  1. I know that plant. Those burrs are annoying.

  2. Such a pretty name for such an annoying plant. I looked it up and it is indeed, the dreaded cocklebur. If you have a dog with long fur they have to be cut out! However, I don't hate it as much as I hate sandburs because they really hurt when you step on them with bare feet.

  3. Such a contrast. The word sounds like something amazing and then, nope, burr plant. lol

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

  4. There is a type of burr plant in Sweden (I don't know if it's indigenous here, just never saw it until I moved here is all) where the burrs are as big as a thumb-tip. They're fun, because they actually stick to your fingers in a non-painful way. They're also fun to throw at people and have them stick on clothing (I'm 37, going on 12 apparently). I have no idea what it's called, but I shall now think of it as a xanthium.

  5. Burr plant even with the big name can be very annoying indeed

  6. There were tons of burrs in the field opposite my childhood home...I would come home each night with my socks full of them. What an ingenious plant to find a way to spread itself far and effort involved...just stick on to any passing creature and off we go. Smart little plant.

  7. I'm not sad about the burrs, lol. Well I am if I'm walking in grass and they have the audacity to try and tag along with me. :)

  8. It sure sounds like a fabulous new drug that cures what ails you, except the side effects may be fatal. You know, the ones they advertise on television.

    Burrs stink. our outdoor cat arrives at the door with so many in the fall we resort to cutting them out.

  9. I was mistaking that for a food additive I've seen before. Not sure if I've ever seen this plant in person.

    Good job - you are at x!

  10. Xanthium--nope, I would never have guessed it's a burr plant. That's too bad; such a cool looking and sounding word .

  11. Hello there. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy the rest of the challenge!
    Entrepreneurial Goddess

  12. Very, very tricky. Perfect camoflague for a plant with teeth.

  13. Hehe, it cracks me up that it even has "vile" right in the definition. Bad memories of burrs everywhere...

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Actually, I have been thinking about another idea for X, even though it does not matter one iota: X + 1

    in the comment above I misspelled "matter" --wrote "manner" instead. Long day.

  16. Somehow I would have thought Xanthium would be a pretty flower. Maybe I'm thinking of zinnia.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  17. I wonder if that is that dangerous plant, dangerous to dogs. Not sure. But what a great achievement for your grandmother. That must have been unusual back then, a pharmacist.

  18. Weeds are unsightly, like Bittercress which has the ability to seed in large quantities up to 1m away.

  19. I love that you have such old pictures and books! I agree the word Xanthium is pretty cool, but it's no fun to have burrs attach to your clothing.

  20. It is such a pretty word for such a cruel thing as a burr! I absolutely love how your grandmother pursued being a pharmacist way back then! That had to take courage ot do so!


  21. We all need weeds in our lives. It makes us work, gives us a purpose, and great satisfaction when we rips it's roots from our gardens. Those things that are easy make us passive. We need these weeds to make us care.

  22. I think it presumptuous of the dictionary writers to include the adjective "vile" to their definition. The Xanthium is tenacious. It has a built in mechanism for survival and propagation of its species. It is a wonder of nature! God doesn't make junk, or vile anything. Just my two cents. And BTW, based on your apologetic preface to the blog-hopping and making comments, I feel honored that you stopped by and commented on my X post today! :) It is a pretty daunting task to visit and comment on so many offerings! Gail

    1. The entire description of the Xanthium is taken word for word from the botany book, can you imagine that! Not exactly a scientific analysis, but very human.

  23. Your grandmother was beautiful and what a vibrant woman. How lucky you are to have inherited some of her books and also her verve for life.

  24. Hi Susan - xanthium - sounds better than that, but does look pretty ... I expect they'll find a good use for it one day - it's a survivor ... and your grandmother was a pioneer - fascinating to have her books - lucky you - Hilary

  25. Susan, your grandmother was so beautiful, and look at that smile, just makes me want to smile right back. The plant looks pretty cool, despite its reputation. The catching part functions as a defense mechanism, I guess. Just nature's funny way of saying: stay away. :)

  26. What a nice tribute to your grandmother! A beautiful, intelligent woman.
    Thank you for sharing this...


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!