ORRIN MORRIS: Dog-fennel offers us a field of dancing, glistening sunlight on frosty winter mornings

Psalm 149 begins with an encouragement to sing a new song of praise to the Lord. The enthusiasm for praise is increased in verse 3 as the congregation is instructed, "Let them praise his name in dance."DOG-FENNEL

Eupatorium compositifoliaThis wildflower epitomizes the dance of nature in praise of the Creator. The dog-fennel plant is simplicity in motion. Whether by a breeze or a passing vehicle, the branches dance, then gently nod as pictured.

Dog-fennel's off-white blooms, so small you have to get within inches to see them, are complete with stamens and a pistil. The blooms, appearing from September through November, do not open wide and, if they did, the curled petals are so narrow that they still wouldn't be easily seen. Note the enlarged sample of a bloom on the upper right corner of the sketch.

The rust-colored stems are woody, and the heavy branching occurs between 1 and 2 feet above the ground.

Thousands of leaves add to the grace of this weed. The specimens I have examined have very thin leaves (about the width of a 10-pound test fishing line).

Further, the leaves are rarely longer than 2 inches, appearing irregularly up the stem and the branches. By the time the blooming begins in late September, many of the lower leaves have dried, creating a light brown intertwining along the stem and along the older branches. This adds to the weedy appearance.

It is rare to see a single plant. They grow in clusters everywhere, except in dense woods. Specimens of this plant are present along our roadsides and, whether dancing in praise or waving to wish us well, they are a delight for the observant person.

When most fall wildflowers die, their plants stand rigid throughout the winter. Not so with dog-fennel. It retains its ability to dance in the wind throughout the winter, gracing us with a glistening wonderland of sunlight on frosty mornings.

Its beauty does not stop in roadside ditches. Interior decorators frequently spray dog-fennel with clear lacquer or gold paint to form a tall bushy background for a bouquet against which the bright dried flowers capture attention.

It is interesting that a very ordinary weed can be something about which to praise God. The same applies to all of us who are ordinary, too. We are special because God loves us and watches over us, every bit as much as He does those praised by our society as "American Idols."

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.