Doug and I have just returned from a week of visiting his mom in Seattle.

Our daughter, Della, took this photo a few years ago when visiting her grandmother.

Our daughter, Della, took this photo a few years ago when visiting her grandmother.

Dorothy loves flowers, and when she lived in Wisconsin, we used to bring her bouquets from the Dane County Farmers Market throughout the growing season.

I normally do not buy flowers through commercial outlets because the pretty flowers in your grocery produce section or local flower shop can be breathtakingly toxic.  They are mostly grown in less developed countries where pesticide regulations are lax.  The workers are exposed to a lot of toxins, and their local water supplies are often polluted with runoff.  Shipping them here in refrigerated planes and trucks creates a huge carbon footprint.  If you want to know more , here is a link to one of the many articles on the topic of imported flowers.

No, I can’t in good conscience ever buy commercial cut flowers, BUT Doug’s mom is very ill and does not have many more days on this earth.

They looked harmless enough.

They looked harmless enough.

Doug and I were in a local food co-op, and I saw some cheery, yellow blooms  that said, “grown in Washington” on their brown paper wrapping.  I wanted to brighten Dorothy’s day.  Some lovely, local blossoms didn’t seem like too bad a choice.

When we got them home, my sister-in-law dug out her flower ID book to see what they were.  We couldn’t find the gorgeous yellow puffs in her book.

We found them online under  “invasive plants”.

I had purchased a bouquet of Bighead Knapweed!

A bouquet of wolves in sheeps' clothing!

A bouquet of wolves in sheeps’ clothing!

I was horrified to learn that this flower, brought here from Turkey and Romania as a garden ornamental, and prized for its showy flowers, is escaping from gardens, spreading to pasture and wild areas – where it does great harm.

According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, knapweeds are aggressive, invasive noxious weeds of pastures, cultivated fields, travel corridors, and any bare ground sites.

  1. They increase soil erosion, consume soil nutrients and crowd out native vegetation.
  2. They release a natural herbicide that kills neighboring plants.

This enables these weeds to quickly and effectively take over an area once introduced.

Knapweed infestations  increase production costs for ranchers, impair the quality of wildlife habitat, decrease plant diversity, increase soil erosion rates, and pose fire hazards. Knapweed has little value as forage for cattle and wildlife and some types can cause chewing disease in animals who try to eat it.


Seattle has an amazing climate for growing lush, spectacular flower gardens, and just about every yard in the neighborhood we walked each day was gorgeous.

Sadly, once we had identified the knapweed, my brother-in-law noted that he has seen in it planted of the flower gardens nearby.  He snapped a photo on his next walk.

It doesn't even look good here -- it's obviously very aggressive.

It doesn’t even look good here — it’s obviously very aggressive.

If you find this plant growing on your land, here is a link on how to eradicate it.

I am feeling very chagrined to have supported the dispersal of a nasty invasive that is damaging the native environment in Washington.   It was so easy to give in and indulge a wish to cheer up a few of my sweet mother-in-law’s last days with something “local” I got at a co-op.

I’m not going to beat myself up about this, but I am going to redouble my determination not to feed the ugly flower industry.

I realize some people probably think I’m the flower Grinch.  What’s your take on cut flowers? 

3 replies

  1. It’s so easy not to think of the ramifications of our purchases. So it’s wonderful to have you inform us of the toxic trail we support if we purchase foreign grown flowers. And for that co-op to sell an invasive non-native is very irresponsible. If you get a chance, you should point out to the management what a poor choice it was to carry them.

    • Hi Leslie,
      I think it probably just slipped under their radar. I have communicated with them, and hope they will stop selling knapweed now that they know. It was a great co-op similar to Willy Street, so I expect they will do the right thing.

  2. Here in Latvia flowers are given for many occasions, but fortunately there are many flowers grown in gardens that make acceptable gifts and natural flowers are acceptable too. I was on the bus about two weeks ago and someone was taking in a bunch of wild daisies – they are so prolific that it is not a problem.

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