The Old Testament judge Samuel was commanded by Jehovah to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the successor to King Saul. He had Jesse parade his oldest sons before him. Though they were handsome, not one was chosen because “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 KJV).
After the seven older sons had passed before Samuel, he asked if Jesse had another son. Jesse replied that his youngest son, David, was out herding the sheep. When David was summoned and appeared before Samuel, the Lord told Samuel this was the one to anoint. Most of us know the rest of the account, how his exploits as warrior-king and psalmist brought him fame.
Certain colonial visitors were said to judge the plant as a poor substitute of the Flax they used for making linen. However, today we find pleasure in this delicate beautiful plant.
Toadflax can be seen along area roadways before the first mowing. The blossoms are very small and, where they are thinly scattered, will be easily overlooked by passing motorists. Where they are thickly strewn they appear as a bluish-purple haze about 10 to 14 inches high along the shoulder of the road.
The blossom of the toadflax is about 1/4 of an inch in diameter. One stem may have as many as 10 blooms irregularly spaced along the stalk. They will begin appearing around Easter and continue blooming into early summer if the season is not too dry.
Toadflax is a member of the Snapdragon Family. Its relatives include gerardia, false foxglove, turtlehead, Indian paintbrush and butter-and-eggs.
How did this beautiful and delicate wildflower get such an uncomplimentary name? One legend attributes the name to an English visitor. It seems the early Colonials boasted that this was a native version of flax that was as good as that of the British Isles. In rebuttal, the English botanist dubbed it toadflax with emphasis on toad as ugly and warty.
A more accepted version of the name comes from holding the bloom in one’s fingers. When the sides are squeezed the “mouth” opens like a toad. The name flax supposedly refers to the way the leaves curl around the stem that is similar to the true flax.
Frankly, I don’t care what someone calls this wildflower, it has a delicate blossom that can be appreciated only when viewed up close. Furthermore, it is a good weed because it does not invade flower and vegetable gardens. Neither does it grow tall with large scruffy leaves. It modestly occupies the roadside and waste places, bringing beauty to those of us whose eyes see with the heart, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”