Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Euphorbia marginata
From a distance, this little shrub looks like it's covered with large white flowers.  Up close, however, it's easy to see that Snow-on-the-Prairie, or Euphorbia marginata, gets its handsome good looks from variegated bracts.  Like other members of the Euphorbia family, Snow-on-the-Prairie has small flowers.  Some might even call them insignificant.  But it more than makes up for it with these showy modified leaves at the base of the tiny flower.

Note the tiny flowers!

Some of the fields near my house are covered with Snow-on-the-Prairie now, and I wish I could better convey how striking it is.  Striking enough for me to put on my snake-proof boots and hike over through a barb-wire fence to take a picture of it.  Snow-on-the-Prairie is at its most attractive in the early fall -- and that alone makes me love it.  It's been so hot here lately that I could be convinced that fall isn't coming at all this year, except that the Snow-on-the-Prairie's blooming.

The leaves are slightly fuzzy.

Not everyone loves this plant, though. It's not all that wonderful to have in your fields if you are grazing cattle.  Many euphorbias have a toxic white latex sap, and this one is no exception.  Livestock can be poisoned if a great quantity is eaten: the sap severely irritates the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.  Luckily, however, it has an acrid taste and generally, animals won't consume enough of it to be fatal.

Usually about 3 feet tall.

Other names for this native annual shrub are White-margined Spurge and Snow-on-the-Mountain. Here in the bottomlands, however, Snow-on-the-Prairie seems more appropriate.  I have seen these plants occasionally available for sale at independent nurseries and garden centers, and the seeds are available online.  Take my word for it:  a field of Euphorbia marginata is stunning in September  Just keep the cows away!


  1. I for one think the Snow on the Prairie plant is quit handsome.The flowers, though small, are very pretty, a little dogwood like.

  2. I have a weakness for variegated foliage. This plant is a beauty!

  3. A field of Euphorbia marginata...I can imagine how beautiful that'll look! The foliage is stunning!

  4. I'm just very relieved that you're describing a plant and not the real deal! September is entirely too early to start speaking of snow.

    This plant is really lovely and interesting. It lights up the field, doesn't it?