1. An empty train. 2. A useless fellow.

- american underworld dictionary - 1950
Some plants produce multiple flowers. Flowers are the precursor of seeds. Seeds are the way most plants reproduce. Plants are smart. Once seeds are produced plants concentrate their energy into their reproductive success by growing the seed. For many plants, this means they stop producing more flowers.

If a gardener removes spent flowers before seed production is fully underway some plants (especially annuals and repeat blooming perenials) are fooled into making another flower. Sometimes, it will even make 2 for 1 because cutting a stem induces branching as well. Some plants will only make a certain number of blooms but others seem to be limited only by the gardeners dedication to deadheading.

Intentionally removing old flowers, whether for aesthetic reasons, to move plant energies away from seed production and/or to induce the production of more flowers is called deadheading....mean to future generations of flowers, nice to the garden.

Deadheading can be quite a chore in large gardens. Roses, petunias, zinnias, lantanas, pansies, and cone flowers are examples of plants that will respond with increased flowers if deadheaded regularly. Some plants are "self cleaning", meaning they drop their petals cleanly and don't need to be deadheaded for aesthetics. Old fashioned impatiens, coreopsis, and azaleas don't benefit by deadheading. Some plants fall in the middle and will do some limited repeat blooming if deadheaded plus have ugly dead flower carcasses. Yarrow and lavender are good examples of the former. Some plants simply need to be deadheaded because the spent flower is so ugly. Some need to be deadheaded because the seed production requires excessive energy which would be better used elsewhere (from the gardener's perspective). Most bulbs, tuberous, and rhizomatic plants fall into this category. We want the energy to go to the bulb, tuber or rhizome. Some plants should not be deadheaded because the seed pod is desireable. Some rose hips and sunflowers fall into this category.

Deadheading can be a quite satisfying experience. Walking around the garden, cleaning up old blooms, leaving a fresh palate while encouraging new growth and sniping a few fresh blooms for the house is very relaxing, meditative time for me.

A deadhead is also a sunken log, which usually arrived at the bottom of a lake or river as logs in an impromptu raft are being floated from one place to another. Retrieving these high-quality older logs is the profitable business of deadhead logging.

DeadHead Definitions
"I made a mixture with clear water, and filtered it to take away the dead head of it. " (Husbandry & Gardening, 1707)

"When castings are required to be particularly solid, they are generally made with what is called a dead head." (English Mechanic, 1869)

"Dead head, a kind of dolphin or stout post on a quay head to make hawsers fast to; a rough block of wood used as an anchor buoy." (Smyth's Sailor's Wordbook, 1867)

"Dead head: One who returns without a load. " (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary)

"The forest covered slopes of Deadhead Hill, whose summit rim is always outlined in black by the crowding figures of the deadheads assembled to see the game. " (0. D. von Engeln, At Cornell, 1909)

"As I had never experienced the blessed privilege of deadheadism, I could not naturally miss the opportunity of enjoying so new a sensation." (N. Y Tribune, 1857)

"In Pittsfield, recently, he is reported to have advertised that he could furnish a free pass to glory, but very few of the unrighteous population seems anxious to be dead-headed on this train." (N. Y. Tribune, 1871)

"He had been dead-headed into the world some fifty years ago, and had sat with his hands in his pockets staring at the show ever since." (Oliver Wendel Holmes, Elsie V ii, 1860)

(Quotes from Oxford & Webster's dictionaries)

Found in a reprinting of the last deadhead newsletter published by the Grateful Dead in 1980. The word seems to get around.

Deadhead is a term used by airline and trucking outfits which make their living hauling freight. If you have to travel empty to one location in order to get a load to haul somewhere else, that empty run is called "deadheading." The same term is used if you have to haul a load to some location and have nothing to do but turn around and come home with an empty cargo hold. In these days of high gasoline prices, it's paycheck suicide to have a whole lot of deadhead runs.

In the airline industry, this term is also used for human employees who must fly on a commercial flight as a passenger in order to reposition themselves for a flight in another locale. The term became a pejorative appellation for company employees or their spouses because they were strapped into empty seats in order to give the appearance of high traffic volume on a flight.

You might also remember the term being a fairly big part of the story in Catch Me if you Can, written as a true story by Frank Abagnale Jr. and brought to the silver screen by Steven Spielberg. Leonardo DiCaprio (playing Frank) learns how to fly deadhead on airlines around the world posing as a Pan Am pilot.


They wore tie dyed underwear and took a whole lot of drugs. At least they said they were taking a whole lot of drugs. Want to know a secret about the hippies that says a lot about the way the whole bunch of 'em turned out? Did you ever, when you were learning to drink, pour your alcohol out when no one was looking because you couldn't stand the taste of it, and act like you had finished it off? Well, a lot of these folks who tell you they did monstrous doses of acid back then are pissing on your leg and asking you to believe that it's raining. Monstrous doses of acid would make a paperweight out of you. Look at Hendrix. He was one who really did take overdoses of uppers, hallucinogenics, and downers.

I'm using Hendrix's left hand to hold these papers down right this minute.
It's petrified, and you need not ask me how I got it.
(See how we lie? So easily?
"I did not have sex with that left hand!" . . .

Millions of words have been written about the Deadheads, which was the appellation given to the multlicolored hippies who devoted their lives to travelling around the country to see the Grateful Dead play live. They would normally be in Volkswagen MiniVans with flowers painted on the side. They would normally be jobless and basically without any purpose in life except to get baked and follow this band around the world. Their parents were not too happy about finding out that Junior was not at Princeton this semester.

I could rant about how idiotic these folks were to devote their lives to something so ephemeral and banal and non-401-K’ish, but let me just tell you a short story about a magical afternoon in Nashville, TN. It might make it all make sense in some twisted way. However; I hope not.


Whatever year it was that the first Datsun 240Z cars came out, that was the year we decided to drive from Tuscaloosa, AL, to Nashville, TN, to see the Dead play an outside afternoon concert at Vanderbilt. As usual, when we got there, you could see the Deadheads all over the place. They were usually well-behaved, but you could get a contact high which would send you to the asylum just from looking them in the eye.

The drug of choice that day was what we called MDA. Actually, we called it "the love drug" (not to be confused with any VW Beetle in a bad movie at any point in time). I think you kids call it Ecstasy these days, but perhaps that is more akin to MDMA. I've long since given up trying to keep up with drugacronyms. Anyway, what we called MDA was some sort of mixture of a mild hallucinogenic (mescaline?) and a big dose of speed. Throw a few chunks of hash on top of that, and it was about time for some music.

The Grateful Dead had a presence like very few bands of that era. The Allman Brothers had it when Duane was alive. I guess Zeppelin and some of those English dudes had it, too. But I never saw any of them in this sort of setting.

A band with a real presence doesn't need a light show or stage theatrics. They just stand there and play. And play. And play. This particular afternoon at Vandy, the music began around 2:00 PM. They played for 2½ hours, took a 30 minute break, and then played 2½ more hours. No opening act. No closing act. Just them for 5 hours of music.

As you can imagine, filling 5 hours is a daunting task. There is a lot of the noodle involved. Garcia was the King of the Noodle. Weir wasn't bad at it, either. And you'd have some long drum solos (they had two drummers, just like the Allmans) and a bass solo every so often. The trick was to let the drugs wash over you as the noodle progressed so that you "became the noodle."

The air was cool, like that atmosphere of the first football game of the year. The wind had a bit of a chill. The ivy was climbing the walls of those old buildings at Vanderbilt. The grass was a bit damp. The Deadheads were in heaven, and I wasn't far behind.

I started an affair that afternoon which lasted for a few weeks. Every time I think of that girl named Celia, I think of that afternoon in Nashville and that crazy band.

A real Deadhead would have more and better stories, but this is the best I can do. I am sorry, and I am also sorry that this band turned out to be such a disappointment when I actually began listening to their stuff on records. American Beauty is still a pretty good album, but most of it is not very good. It's not very good at all.

Dead"head` (?), n.


One who receives free tickets for theaters, public conveyances, etc.

[Colloq. U. S.]

2. Naut.

A buoy. See under Dead, a.


© Webster 1913.

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