I spent my afternoon yesterday among the weeds. I didn’t have to go far. This cute little flower, Dove’s Foot Geranium (Geranium molle), was growing at the edge of our front garden bed, just a few feet back from the shoulder of the road. The flower is only about one-half inch across but that bright pink is hard to miss.
As far as weeds go, Dove’s Foot Geranium isn’t too bad. I’ve never seen it form large colonies and it’s relatively easy to pull or dig from places where it isn’t wanted. It’s generally considered an annual weed, although some sources say it can also be a biennial or perennial.
A couple of days ago when I ventured out on the road for the first time in many days I noticed something bright yellow blooming along Slater Road at the corner of Rural Avenue. I’d seen these plants in previous years but never bothered to get close. Yesterday I walked down to the corner to investigate.
This fairly tall yellow mustard is Field Mustard, Brassica rapa. This specimen, and others growing nearby, was 2-3 feet tall. We have several weedy yellow mustards in our area, so it’s important to look closely to identify them. This one has clasping stem leaves, meaning the base of the leaves appear to be wrapping around the stem. The lower leaves are somewhat divided into two or three lobes, but that’s not obvious in the photo.
Our neighborhood roadside weed patch had many stems of Field Mustard, and I expect we’ll see even more of them in the coming weeks. Like many of our weedy mustards, this one is an annual.
One of the characteristics of plants in the mustard family, Brassicaceae, is that they have four petals. That’s not sufficient to know it’s a mustard, but it eliminates a lot of other families.
Here we have a veritable bouquet of weeds. Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is easily recognized with its bright yellow composite flowers. So is Henbit, aka Purple Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum), with its square stems and little pink flowers among the purplish foliage.
Between those two you can see (if you look closely) immature seedpods of Hairy Bittercress, aka Shotweed (Cardamine hirsuta). Soon those seed capsules will burst open and shoot seeds all over the place.
At the bottom of the photo is the young foliage of Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum). It looks so pretty you’d think it would be wonderful as filler foliage in a flower arrangement, but since the entire plant is poisonous that would be a bad idea.
One of the key characteristics that makes Poison Hemlock relatively easy to identify is the red spots or blotches on the stems. As far as I know it’s the only common member of the parsley family to have them. Once the plants get a little taller it will be easier to see those spots. For now, you have to look a little closer beneath the foliage to see them. I’ll admit to having used my foot, protected by shoes and socks, to bend another stem out of the way to get this photo. Since it’s a Class B Noxious Weed in Washington I have no qualms about harming this plant.
Here’s another view of Poison Hemlock on the same roadside, again growing with Dandelions and Henbit.
I certainly saw other weeds on my neighborhood walk as they’re all around us. As a gardener I work hard to keep the plants I don’t want under control. But when I’m out walking I get almost as much enjoyment from identifying the weeds as I do our more desirable native flora.