Weeds

Outside my kitchen door are several abandoned flower pots, some still filled with potting soil. When I glanced at one of the pots recently, I noticed something growing in it. It was a healthy-looking plant with pretty green leaves, arranged in threes.

Wait a minute … “Leaves of three, let it be….”

I have poison ivy growing in a pot outside my kitchen door.

I think this qualifies me for “Worst Gardener Ever.”

I don’t like to garden. I am bad at gardening. A close reading of the Bible reveals that gardening is Adam’s punishment for eating that apple. “Cursed is the ground because of you … It will produce thorns and thistles for you.”

My cursed yard produced a couple of giant thistles for me this spring. They were very pretty, until the flowers faded and all that was left were thousands of razor-sharp spines.

The things I plant never do very well.

The things I don’t plant — the volunteer plants — they thrive.

Volunteer plants have many benefits. You don’t have to water them. You don’t have to weed them, because, well, they are weeds.

This summer, the flowerbed outside the kitchen window was a riot of purple and yellow wildflowers. Hummingbirds and butterflies flitted among the blooms.

In the spring, a plant I had never seen before popped up near the front steps.

It looked like a dandelion at first. But it kept growing, and growing, and growing.

What sort of mutant alien plant is this, I wondered?

Any sensible person would have chopped it down at that point. But I was too curious about what would happen when it finally bloomed.

Would it have an enormous yellow flower on top?

Would it sprout a pair of giant purple lips like that man-eating plant from “The Little Shop of Horrors”?

The alien plant grew to be 7 feet tall before it stopped growing.

When it finally bloomed, it just put out dozens of teeny-tiny yellow flowers, almost too small to be seen. They instantly turned into teeny-tiny dandelion fluffs and blew away.

And then the 7-foot-tall dandelionish thing toppled over under its own weight.

And then mutant alien plants started popping up all around the house.

I’ve seen enough science-fiction movies to know how this ends.

I did a little research to try and identify this plant, and figure out just how much danger my family was in.

Turns out it is not a dandelion at all.

It is wild lettuce.

Whew. Lettuce is about the least-threatening plant there is.

“Wild lettuce is also called bitter lettuce, tall lettuce, great lettuce and opium lettuce.”

Opium lettuce?!

“Lactuca virosa is a plant in the Lactuca (lettuce) genus, ingested often for its mild psychotropic (specifically hypnotic or sedative) effects, which are often described as being similar to those of opium.”

My family is not in any danger from the mutant lettuce. But I’m a little worried we might be attacked by drug-crazed bunnies.

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.