I'm thankful to Jerry Friedman for clearing up several blunders
in my post about the weeds mentioned in CK's commentary. He is
right that willow herb (not ironweed, as I claimed) is sometimes
called fireweed. No excuse for that. I can, however, explain my
claim that willow herb is aka purple loosestrife. Though I agree
that, by contemporary standards, this is incorrect, I got this
information from my copy of Webster's 2nd, in which the second
definition for willow herb is "the Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria."
This is indeed purple loosestrife. Likewise, milkweed is defined
in Webster's 2nd as "any spurge, esp. the flowering spurge."
So you see, my errors were in fact Webster's 2nd's errors (if
errors they be). This begs the question, of course, as to whether
VN would have relied on his dictionary for botanical definitions.
Being a lepidopterist, he surely had a deeper knowledge of these
plants. Then again, being a transplant to America, and having
written PF in Europe, he may have used his dictionary to confirm
certain botanical details.
As for goldenrod blooming in June, this is surely erroneous. (Recall
that VN insisted that CK's comments on the native flora were full
of errors.) While there are many kinds of goldenrod, all of them
bloom only in late summer and early fall. The contrast between the
goldenrod and the butterfly plants is made more interesting when
you know that goldenrod is a very American plant. It is the state
flower of three states. The square of purple plants surrounded by
the goldenrod is, then, a nice visual metaphor of Kinbote's invasive
appearance in the life and work of that very American poet John Shade.
Matthew Roth

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