English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is a common weed throughout North America. Also known as buck plantain, narrowleaf plantain, or ribwort plantain, it’s one of the plants I learned to recognize and name when I was just a kid.
Easy to recognize, and not a horrid weed as these things go, English plantain is just coming into bloom along our neighborhood roadsides. Continue reading →
One of our common garden and woodland weeds here in the Pacific Northwest is a cute little geranium known variously as stinky Bob, herb Robert, red robin, death come quickly, storksbill, fox geranium, or Geranium robertianum. I usually call it herb Robert, but I hear a lot of people around here calling it stinky Bob because of the strong fragrance of the foliage. Whatever you call it, this is an introduced invasive thug — an unwelcome weed in my garden and woods. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
This pretty little garden weed, which goes by the names Ground-ivy, Gill-over-the-ground, Creeping Charlie, or Field Balm (Glechoma hederacea) is one of the first plants I learned the name of when I was a kid. It grew at the edges of my dad’s garden in West Virginia … and it grows today in our garden in Bellingham on the other side of the continent. The name I use most often is Gill-over-the-ground because that’s how I first learned it, but out here in the west I don’t hear many people using that name.
Ground-ivy isn’t native to either the Appalachians or the Pacific Northwest; it’s another of many plant introductions from Eurasia. Continue reading →
A couple of weeds with “ferny” foliage are coming up in our neighborhood now and it’s important to know the difference. Poison-hemlock, Conium maculatum, as the name suggests is poisonous. That’s the plant pictured above. ALL parts of this plant are toxic to humans and animals, particularly if eaten. Don’t touch this plant and then get your hands near your face. Wear gloves and other protective gear to dig, pull, or otherwise remove it. The King County Noxious Weeds website has further information about poison-hemlock.
Positively identifying this plant isn’t as easy as one might wish. The best diagnostic when the plants are small is to look for purple spots on the stem and the leaf petioles. The spots were just barely visible on the plants I photographed up the road from our house, but I know from observing the site over the years that there’s a big patch of this nasty stuff growing there. The purple spots on the stem persist throughout the growing season so that’s your best clue later in the season, too. Continue reading →
Our garden has lots of early-season weeds, just waiting to be pulled. One that’s important to get out quickly is Shotweed, aka Hairy Bittercress or Cardamine hirsuta. This winter annual is in full bloom right now and getting ready to shoot its seeds all over the place. In the photo above it’s the plant with the white flowers, growing mixed up with Henbit, Creeping Buttercups, and Common Groundsel. Continue reading →
Henbit, also known as Purple Dead-nettle or Red Dead-nettle and in Latin as Lamium purpureum, is a unibiquitous garden weed in much of North America. It’s one of the first plants I learned as a child in my dad’s garden in West Virginia. Dead-nettle refers to the foliage vaguely resembling stinging nettle leaves, but dead-nettle doesn’t have any stiff stinging hairs. In fact, the foliage is soft and fuzzy to the touch.
It’s an easy plant to identify and a rather pretty weed. Look for the somewhat velvety, triangular shaped leaves surrounding the square stem (characteristic of members of the mint family). Small pinkish flowers are nestled among the foliage at the tip of the stem. The upper leaves are usually reddish-purple while the lower leaves tend to be more green. Continue reading →
With people hoarding toilet paper and none to be found on our grocery store shelves, I’ve seen several Facebook posts about natural alternatives — plants you can use instead. One of those is our common weed, woolly mullein (Verbascum thapsus). It’s a ubiquitous plant, introduced to and growing in every state and Canadian province, according to the USDA PLANTS database. Continue reading →
Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) is keeping me very busy weeding our garden this spring. A pretty little perennial, native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, creeping buttercup has been introduced and become naturalized in nearly every state in the United States. Left to its own devices, creeping buttercup sends out creeping stems that take root at the nodes when they touch the ground, forming a dense carpet that shades and crowds out more desirable plants. Continue reading →
I got a phone call this morning from a lady down around Olympia who had come across my wildflowers website. She hadn’t found a plant on the site that she’d found in the backyard of her home and asked if she could send me a JPEG to identify it for her before she took a weed eater to it. I get these requests pretty frequently, but usually by e-mail, so I said “yes” and she sent a file while we were still on the phone.
It only took a glance to know that her mystery plant was the very common garden groundcover, Vinca minor. The common name is periwinkle. It’s a plant I learned as a small child because my dad had it in our garden. It’s native to southern Switzerland and south to the Mediterranean. Continue reading →