A delightful summer fragrance comes from a common but rarely appreciated wild plant.
Pineapple weed thrives in the compacted nutrient poor soil of urban areas. Greenery poking through sidewalk cracks or in the compacted and sun baked soil of gravel parking lots is likely to be this amazingly tough annual plant.
Native to North America and Northeast Asia, Pineapple weed is now found throughout the world, especially in cities. It is sometimes called wild or false camomile. Pineapple weed is not camomile but resembles it and can be used to make a soothing tea.
Pineapple weed grows so low to the ground that often it is untouched by lawn mowers. Its yellowish blossoms are what pedestrians usually spot. Although not related to the delicious tropical fruit sold in grocery stores, both plants emit a similar pleasant fragrance. To best enjoy the scent, crush the blooms of a Pineapple weed between the fingers.
In many parts of the world, Pineapple weed is eaten and sometimes used for medicinal purposes, but in North America it is mostly an interesting and innocuous plant that thrives close to where people live. Every day millions of Americana step over or trod on this humble and interesting plant, yet few pause to marvel at its ability to thrive in places where few living things can survive.
Marion Patterson is an instructor at Kirkwood Community College. Rich Patterson is the former executive director of Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids.