Last full moon, it suddenly occurred to me… make Teasel Flower Essence. I’d been THINKING about it for weeks and weeks, every time I went out to visit and be with them, but somehow the time was never right. But that day it DAWNED on me – not a SUN flower essence, a MOON flower essence, of COURSE. And so I did.

It sat on a table out in the moonlight, I didn’t forget it (as I have for other flower essences I haven’t been entirely tuned in to and wound up discarding). I filtered it that very morning, preserved the ‘mother’ essence with brandy and put it away in a cabinet, because I didn’t quite KNOW what it was all about yet.

Yes, I’ve ready other descriptions of what others think Teasel Flower Essence is ‘for’, but none of those descriptions spoke to me.

Teasels? They ~speak~ to me…….. a LOT.


So I gave great thought to the utterly unique way in which the flowers start in the middle of the head and go BOTH ways. That HAS to be significant. I thought about the ‘kill, kill, kill’ thing that virtually every Lymer feels, but also that enormous need to HEAL.

We’re an ecosystem, not a shoebox. If you send in ALL the troops with flame throwers and nuclear bombs and power-washers full of Drano, you won’t be growing any flowers on the battlefield any time soon.

No, Teasel knows the pull of BOTH directions. I watched and watched the flowerheads, touched and puzzled as to WHEN the spines are soft and when they become fierce. And still the bottle remains in the cabinet. I don’t GET it all yet.

But that was LAST full moon. Today is another. August Full Moon. As I went out today to gather another batch of tiny florets, I realized that most of them were no longer in bloom. MOST of them are ripening seeds. I’ve asked them about THAT, too. I feel VERY drawn to working with the seeds, but I have for a year now and have done nothing. Something tells me they must be VERY fresh. But how will I know? I’ve been watching the three sister teasels in one corner of the garden. One was the very first to bloom. That first seedhead is way above my head, so I can’t watch the seeds closely. So I sat with them for a LONG time the other day with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes, I saw all the many seedheads on all of the Teasels I let bloom in the garden and saw, for the first time, that the seed heads go beige, but still, the protective arching spines are all green.

 Not yet. I GET it.  And even when the sidespines lose their green, I am NOT to take the center head or even the THREE center heads. Just the side ones. They are extra. They are to share. Absolutely, I will WAIT.

Earlier in the season I was brought to a stop with my digging rosettes trying to meet the soaring demand for Teasel root tincture to help with Lyme. April 22 was my last batch. I had to stop. I was finding that even though I was only digging flat rosettes, in that last batch I was finding plants that had initiated flowerstalks. Some I only could see once I cut the leaves off.

There, in the center, was a solid circle – a flower stalk, and I could feel the root had lost its medicine. I couldn’t tell by looking at them, so I just had to STOP.

From the end of April pretty much all through May, the invite went out. I don’t know how else to put it. I simply had to WAIT to see who accepted the invite and who declined. As Matthew Wood said it years ago:

 “Teasel is a biennial, except when it isn’t.”

He’s utterly right. I’ve dug non-blooming rosettes with roots SO huge that there’s no way they could be a First Year Root. Just no way. And I’ve seen Teasels BLOOM at 4 INCHES tall from having been mowed repeatedly. Once they accept this invite to bloom, that’s IT. They are GOING to bloom, they are GOING to make seeds, they are GOING to survive.

And THESE are the ones in bloom today, on this August Full Moon. The secondary side-shoots from the big ones, but also the ones that met a weed-whacker, a scythe, a mower.

THIS is how much they want to survive. For them to accept this invitation to bloom spells their death unless those seeds survive. No WONDER they take their time deciding.

And once the digging commenced again, once it was CLEAR who had heard the call and who had decided to sit this one out, there was another directive. Over and over I would suddenly STOP digging. It was like my digging fork just wouldn’t go into the ground. Something would just make me STOP. Time and again it was the ONE rosette sitting directly at the base of a blooming stalk.

 It happened so often that I came to see it as the ‘Chosen Child’. You do not take the child sitting at its mother’s feet. They were usually HUGE, but they are NOT root-medicine plants. They are the ones who will bloom next year for sure. The new seeds ripening now will take their chances. Goldfinches will feast on them, they will fall where they cannot root into the ground. Some will germinate right in the seedhead and spend the rainy Oregon winter riding the arching stem of its mother to the moist ground.

 If they dry out or freeze at any point before they get their roots in the ground, it’s over. So this ChosenChild is to be honored and protected.

So today, as I gathered tiny florets, stroking my fingers sideways over the spines and noting that fertilized flowers came out easily and non-fertilized flowers did NOT come out AT ALL, I thought about whose flowers I was gathering. The survivors. The ones who met the blade of the mower (sometimes more than once) and were STILL determined to survive.

Do I know that feeling? I was mowed down EIGHT separate times. Each one more difficult than the one before. I finally grabbed hold of one INCREDIBLE weed, and kicked for all I was worth ‘til I came up for air. I MADE it. I’m WELL.

So. Teasel flowers are about bravery, and faith and acceptance. They’re about dying and carrying on and doing both at once. They’re about keeping enough to be sure you survive and sharing the extra.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a more noble, brave or wise plant in all my life (and I’ve spent decades hanging out with the plants). It’s an honor to spend my days with them, and to have them as my teachers.



August 24, 2010