Each day this summer the goats go out their pasture gate and past two foot high thickets of pinkweed. These plants seem to be everywhere.
Other years I wander down the creek floodplain by the small buck pasture to find various smartweeds. Pinkweed is the most obvious one of these.
Color is the first thing you notice about pinkweed – deep, vibrant pink flower bundles at the ends of every branch. Each individual flower is small and barely opens one end. Tiny gnats crawl in and back out.
Later the flowers change to brown. Each has become a seed the same shape as the flower. Running a hand over the bundle leaves a pile of seeds in your hand.
At one time several smartweeds were gathered as wild greens. Most are edible although peppery and often bitter. A few burn the mouth.
Pinkweed is supposed to be in the edible category. I don’t care much for the bitter, peppery tastes so I haven’t tried it. Deer are supposed to eat it although my goats ignore it.
Ancient peoples gathered the seeds as food. Archaeologists find them in old encampment sites. It would take a lot of seeds to make a meal.
Birds don’t mind the small size. Numerous birds from waterfowl to songbirds to bobwhites feast on this bounty. Mice and voles probably do as well.
Other years the pinkweed has been a short plant although Ozark Wildflowers, a Missouri Department of Conservation guidebook, says it can reach five feet. The cool, wet spring was evidently perfect weather for all of the smartweeds as all of them have been numerous and big. These others have white flowers.
Looking over the pinkweed plants I get the impression the branches are longer than two feet. They droop over limiting the plant’s height. Mowing does make the plants short but each bravely puts up a flower spike turning grassy areas pink.
Every flower cluster is dropping seeds so next year will see another wave of pink covering the pasture, the yard and my garden. Although the garden residents will leave as soon as I get around to weeding.