Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)

Many related plant species are referred to as “dandelions,” but the one we are concerned about owns the Linnean species name “Taraxacum officinale.” ‘Taraxacum’ encompasses a large genus of plants collectively known as dandelions. ‘Officinale’ is a Medieval Latin term used to describe plants that had/have a traditional medicinal use. What we think of as the common dandelion was brought to North America by the emigrating English Puritans because it was used for medicinal purposes. To chase the name further, ‘dandelion’ is derived from the French name ‘dent de lion’ meaning ‘tooth of the lion,’ for the jagged leaf edges.

Among the many medicinal claims, parts of the plant were used to treat fevers, boils, eye problems, diarrhea, fluid retention, liver congestion, heartburn, and skin ailments. Leaves were seen as aiding digestion due to its bitter principles thought to stimulate salivary and gastric juices. Roots were thought to improve bile flow which would help alleviate liver congestion, bile duct inflammation, hepatitis, gallstones and jaundice.

The plants are perennials meaning that they keep coming back year after year, in your lawn and elsewhere. Each plant has a central taproot. If the top of the plant is removed the remnant taproot will generate a new plant. Depending on the size of the taproot, quality of soil and amount of sunlight, a plant can be a few inches across and sport a few flowers on short stems, or at the large end of the size scale, leaves can be more than a foot long, flower stems towering above that, and one plant sporting 15 to 20 flowers, each up to two inches across.

Dandelion preparing to make more dandelions
The bright yellow flowers quickly morph into perfect orbs of white. Each seed, attached to the core of the flower, has at the other end a slender stalk and a fluff of white. When the seed is mature, the connection of the seed to center becomes frail, so that even a light gust of wind carries the seed away. The seed heads go by many names, among them puff-ball, blow-ball and clockflower. The last is for the belief that the number of blows it takes to blow off all of the seeds is what time it is. Not literal time, silly. Fairy time.     

Dandelions are edible, but perhaps over-hyped. First leaves of spring, picked before the plant has flowers, can be washed and incorporated into salads, imparting a mildly bitter taste. Served separately, it helps to blanche the leaves to remove the water-soluble bitter compounds, then serve as is, or sauté as one might cook spinach. Roots of the larger plants can be unearthed, washed, chopped, gently pan-browned or low-temperature roasted, then covered with boiling water and allowed to steep for 20-40 minutes. Or just buy dandelion root tea at any health food store. There are also recipes for batter-fried flowers, dandelion wine, dandelion jelly… Note that while exuberant websites state that “Everything, from the flower all the way down to the roots, is edible.” that is not exactly true. The stems exude a milky sap that contains latex. Some parts of the plant can interfere with the metabolism of certain drugs. Thus, might be wise to consult with one’s primary care physician before consuming dandelion products on a regular basis.  

Lastly, dandelion flowers can be used for ephemeral art projects. If a computer is handy, look up Andy Goldsworthy dandelions, selecting to view images. To make your own, start by picking LOTS of flowers. Snip the stems. Ideally, collect the flowers in a bucket half-filled with ice water, else they quickly turn a dark orange and wilt. Quickly cover something – a boulder, a small child – with a layer of flowers and take photographs.     

Mark had a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle made of a photo of a dandelion seed head centered above an out-of-focus, green and brown background. This was not a good idea.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

How Maynard Became Maynard

On April 19, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “How Maynard Became Maynard.” Register (free) at This is the third in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation on April 19, 1871. The May talk will be “Assabet River Floods and Droughts.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History” is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, THUR-SAT, 12-5. 

Prior to European colonization, an area that is now central Massachusetts plus northern parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island was inhabited by the Nipmuc people, one of the New England groups speaking versions of the Algonquian languages. The Nipmuc were displaced from the land that became Maynard through three major events. The Town of Sudbury, established in 1638, expanded northwest to the Assabet River in 1649 as the “Two Mile Grant.” Because it was five miles wide, iIt encompassed ten square miles. Colonial practice was for the appointed Governor of the colony to grant creations and expansions of towns, the colonists having achieved these grants, then to negotiate purchase with Native Americans. ‘Purchase’ of the land appropriated in 1649 took place in 1684 – after King Philip’s War – with a nominal payment of 12 English pounds, to a small group of Nipmuc who had survived the war. In 1651 a colonial court case had been brought by Harman Garrett against Tantamous, also known as “Old Jethro,” for 1,000 acres in lieu of non-payment for purchase of two horses. Last, Stow was created in 1683, signed in 1684 be the same group of Nipmuc people, with no mention of payment. 

Leap to 1840. Massachusetts was one of 26 states. Sudbury and Stow were primarily rural, with populations of 1,422 and 1,230, respectively. The Assabet River, which was the dividing line between the towns, hosted several water-powered mills that were part of the nascent Industrial Revolution. In what becomes Maynard, there was a mill at Mill Street, making spindles used in the spinning of yarn (1821). Earlier, this had been a combination saw-, grist- and cider mill. There was also a paper mill (1820) at Waltham Street. Close down river was a gunpowder mill (1835), a conversion from a sawmill. 

In 1846, Amory Maynard and William Knight arrived in what was then called Assabet Village with pocketsful of money from selling their Framingham and Marlborough mill ponds to Boston for water supply. Together, they bought up hundreds of acres, built a dam and a woolen mill (1846), and arranged for a railroad spur to connect Assabet Village to the Fitchburg Railroad. During the Civil War and post-war years, the mill expanded, immigrants arrived, housing was constructed. Residents wanted to be their own town. Key points of the complaint were that the fast-growing population clustered around the mill was miles away from the town centers of Sudbury and Stow, and people were not getting adequate school and street improvement spending despite taxes being paid to the parent towns. 

David Griffin (L) and Paul Boothroyd (R) of the Maynard
Historical Society hold the first (never submitted) petition.
A note here on the 'Founders' of the Town of Maynard. Most of the histories of the town list as founders the 71 men who signed the official petition, dated January 26, 1871. Actually, months earlier there had been a petition with 68 signees to create a town, name not yet selected, to encompass larger portions of Sudbury and Stow plus modest portions of Acton and Concord. This was never submitted to the state legislature. The official petition gave up annexing the gunpowder mill land from the second pair of towns, but still stipulated a much larger part of Sudbury than was finalized. Subsequent to this official petition there were three additional supporting petitions with 76 more names. All tallied, minus a few who signed more than once, the count came to 211 men who favored the creation of a new town. 

Stow and Sudbury were against the idea. Stow residents circulated three petitions which garnered about 140 signatures. Its opposition stated that such a division would remove “…the only portion that has increased in its population and in its valuation for the past ten years.” and also that such a sundering “…would leave our ancient town in a weak and crippled condition to which we most decidedly object.” Sudbury held a vote at Town Meeting, 183 against and 88 for. (Some of the “for” were in the portion that would be annexed.) In disregard of this opposition, the request to form a new town was granted. 

Maynard becoming Maynard was not free. The first year’s annual report mentioned a commitment to pay Stow $7,970 over seven years and Sudbury $2,700 over nine years. This in addition to the $10,072.77 paid to Sudbury for debt and $10,810.51 for railroad stock. Sudbury was paid more because the woolen mill was in Sudbury. Maynard started with a population of about 800 people from Stow and 1000 people from Sudbury, making it larger than its truncated parent towns. That status persisted until after the 1950 census. 

Amory Maynard
Amory Maynard was not among the signees although he was perhaps the largest landowner and also part owner and manager of the woolen mill. His sons Lorenzo and William signed, and Lorenzo became the town's first Treasurer and Tax Collector. An account of the day, in the Hudson newspaper, had this comment on how the town came to be named: "Mr. Maynard is the chief founder of the community now incorporated in his name. He is a taking man withal, and his personal christening of the new town is a popular acknowledgement of his agency in its birth and breeding." 

The inaugural celebrations marking the founding of Maynard, April 19, 1871, are described in great detail in the 1921 book "A Brief History of Maynard." A parade included the Eagle Cornet Band, International Order of Good Templars, mill representatives, the Amateur Brass Band, St. Bridget Temperance and Benevolent Society, students, and town officials. A Revolutionary War cannon was borrowed from Concord. The Treasurer's Report recorded $13.50 spent on gunpowder and $34.13 on fireworks. 

The 50th anniversary was a huge event. According to the program, church observances on Sunday, April 17th, school observances on Monday, and on Tuesday morning a 50-gun salute and a parade of an estimated 1,000 people down Main, Nason and Summer Streets. Speeches by Governor Cox and Senator Gibbs followed. Local veterans of the Civil War (!), Spanish-American War and the Great War participated. Afternoon activities included Glee Club and choir singing, a band concert and ball game - Maynard versus Concord - at Crowe Park. Likewise, the 100th anniversary was a huge event. Huge. Celebration was pushed to June, perhaps in hope of better weather? Ten days of celebrations included picnics, concerts and performances, capped by a parade and fireworks on July 4th. Celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary has been handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the hope is that vaccinations will reach critical milestones before the end of the year, so events can be live and in person.

Not in newspaper column: In addition to a town named Maynard existing in Massachusetts, there are also towns named Maynard in Iowa, Minnesota and Arkansas. And a Maynardville, Tennessee.   

Maynard Founding Websites and Literature


Schnair, Elizabeth, “Centennial Monograph: A Town is Born” (1968) [Includes Native Amer. History]

Hudson, Alfred S. (1889) The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts. 1638-1889 [Includes Native Amer. History]

Hudson, Alfred S. (1891) The Annals of Sudbury, Wayland, and Maynard, Middlesex County, Massachusetts (Maynard = page 62-85)

SUDBURY MAPS (43 pages, with explanations)

Town of Maynard (2020). Maynard Massachusetts: A Brief History. Pages 21-34. Town of Maynard Sesquicentennial Steering Committee. Charles ton, SC: The History Press. ISBN 978-1-46714-474-2


Nipmuc History and links

History of the Town of Concord, Mass. by Lemuel Shattuck, Boston, 1835

The General Court of Massachusetts passed an Act for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians (1646). Supported Reverend John Eliot and ‘Praying Indian’ villages

Hassanamisco Reservation, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Johnson SF. (1995) Ninnouk (The People): The Algonkian People of New England. Bliss Publishing Company, Marlborough, MA. ISBN 0-9625144-2-X.

Newman MT. Aboriginal new world epidemiology and medical care, and the impact of Old World disease imports. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1976 Nov;45(3 pt. 2):667-72. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330450333. PMID: 793420.

National Register of Historic Places Program: National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month Hassanamisco Reservation, Worcester County, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA)

Nipmuc Nation

Nipmuc History and links

Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda (bills before state legislature 2021)



Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Trail of Flowers 2021

Daffodil sculpture, at Marble Farm
site during bloom peak.
The Trail of Flowers project (TOF; began in 2018 with the concept that the entire length of the Assabet River Rail Trail could become the site of planting of tens of thousands of flowering bulbs, perennial plants, shrubs and trees. This, to augment the flowering trees that were planted as part of rail trail construction budget. Bulbs are beginning to bloom at various locations in Maynard, Acton and Marlborough, and should be reaching a peak in mid- to late-April.

Some of you may be familiar with the Bridge of Flowers (BOF;, in Shelbourne Falls. Starting in 1929, a no-longer-used trolley bridge over the Deerfield River was converted to a showcase of flowering plants through the actions of the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club. The bridge, 400 feet long, is normally open from April 1 through October 31. [The bridge is currently closed to the public because of the COVID pandemic; decisions on opening for 2021 will be announced at a future date.]

BOF, volunteer-operated, has a committee, a head gardener and an assistant gardener. The organization is funded by hundreds of annual donations of $25 or more, including a dozen or more in excess of $500, plus an annual plant sale. It has its own Wikipedia article! In stark contrast, TOF was launched with two $300 donations from Maynard Community Gardeners ( and Assabet River Rail Trail, Inc. (ARRT; see:, used to pay for the purchase of 1,600 daffodil bulbs. The bulbs were planted at the Marble Farm historic site, which is adjacent to the north end of Maynard’s part of the Rail Trail, across Route 27 from Christmas Motors. Plantings were done by volunteers.

$10 at various Maynard
 stores; profits to TOF
For 2019, TOF raised $2,210 in donations, including the Maynard Cultural Council. Plantings – daffodils and tulips – were expanded to multiple sites in Maynard, plus at the north end trail head, in Acton. For 2020, TOF raised $4,025. That included a $2,500 donation from Dupont Imaging, Marlborough. In addition, more than $900 was raised through the sale of ONLY IN MAYNARD coffee mugs at various locations and events. Finances are managed though ARRT, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Fund raising efforts will be conducted in spring of 2021 to support summer and fall plantings.

Daffodils, April 2020
Suggestions were received from members of the Acton Garden Club and Maynard Community Gardeners that in addition to bulbs, plantings expand to include plants that are pollinator- and bird-friendly. Thus, plantings in 2020 were expanded to include day lily, hosta, iris and goldenrod as small plants (from garden club member donations), plus purchases of winterberry, aronia, white fringe trees, beauty bush, forsythia, viburnum, Rose of Sharon, purple-leaf sand cherry and ninebark. Some of the larger plants have, in addition to flowers, bird-edible berries or fruits. A Marlborough site was planted by Marlborough/Hudson Girl Scouts. Plantings in 2021 will continue the mix of plants and continue to expand locations.

 For spring bulb viewing, Maynard residents have two options. First is start at the footbridge over the Assabet River, then walk or bicycle toward Acton. Immediately, there are tulips and grape hyacinth planted at the east end of the bridge, and then more flowering bulbs just north of Concord Road. There are plantings along the stretch between Concord and Summer Streets, but those will be blooming later. A half-mile farther north brings travelers to the Marble Farm site, where more than 1,000 daffodils are blossoming. Extending the trip to the north end of the trail will find more daffodils at the Sylvia Street access and the trail head. The second option is drive to Marble Farm historic site, park at the small gravel parking lot, see the daffs, go home.     

At the May 2021 Town of Maynard annual meeting, there will be an item on the agenda calling for a vote to make Marble Farm an official town park and historic site. The site, a bit more than two-thirds of an acre is town property. The history is that Joseph Marble bought 140 acres of land in Sudbury in 1704, moving here from Andover. In 1730, his son John joined neighbors in petitioning that the land be ceded to Stow. And then, on April 19, 1871, it became part of the newly formed Town of Maynard. Joseph Marble’s descendants owned the property until the house burned in 1924. The genealogy: Joseph Marble, John Marble, John Marble, John Marble, then to daughter Sarah who married Daniel Whitney, then to daughter Mary who married Joel Parmenter. Their son owned it when it burned. Hence, some descriptions of it as the Marble/Whitney/Parmenter farm.   

Design for Marble Farm Park and historic site. Click
on image to enlarge. Lawns and parking already exist.
The site consists of a 28’ x 32’ house foundation and surrounding land and stone walls. In April 2009, Maynard’s Boy Scout Troop #130 cleared the site and installed a post-and-chain barrier around part of the foundation. Without follow-up maintenance, much of the site was again overgrown with Oriental bittersweet, sumac, blackberry and Japanese knotweed. Dead trees fell or were threatening. Starting in 2018, volunteers partially cleared the site and planted grass and the aforementioned daffodils. The vote is for $101,717, to be funded from the Community Preservation Committee budget, to replace the post-and-chain with a steel fence, to clear brush piles and dead trees, to add benches, and to improve the landscaping. This official park and historic site will become the third park on the rail trail, joining Tobin Park and Ice House Landing.