Weed Triage or Knowing Your Weed Biology

Weedy area

Isn’t that a lovely sight? It’s an area of “weeds” mixed with some self-sown natives and even some goldenrod under a magnolia that I have. I’ve ignored it all summer because, quite frankly the weeds aren’t that bad and the “wildflowers” are out competing them.

But after an email “conversation” with a lovely garden club program director a few weeks back in which I assured her that she could let her weeds go a week or two without harm and she received a nasty note from, of all things, a church sponsored community garden (really, how uncharitable to ask someone to weed in a heat wave! I’m appalled!), I thought I had better talk about some basic weed biology.

The note from her community garden director said that if my advice was taken, all the weeds would have gone to seed. Now clearly I’m not there. I can’t see what kind of weeds are in her garden. But if you look at the weeds in the above photo, the only bud in sight is the bud on my magnolia.

Even the oxalis (the little clover-like weeds) aren’t budded or in flower. And no flowers means no seeds. That’s basic biology, folks. You can’t have weeds seeds, without flowers, plain and simple.

What I have coming up in this photo are the first year’s shoots of young poke weed. That’s a perennial weed with a very deep tap root. It won’t begin to flower until next year, if it flowers at all in this deep shade cast by the magnolia. So you can see why I’m not running down there with my weeder. Particularly since it’s been so dry, this weed, with its root, will not come out right now. If we get some rain later this season, I’ll give it a try. Otherwise, it’s here to stay.

The oxalis I will pull out because I don’t want that going to seed. One plant can set 60,000 seeds–and that’s not a misprint. We have that all over the property–as does everyone else. It comes in even in plants from the garden center. I find it in my house plants all winter. It’s not going away any time soon. I’ll just do my best to pull up the ones with flowers on them before they make their little seed pods.

The other thing in this photo–pointy green leaves with serrated edges–is a wildflower as well. It’s not particularly pretty . It just makes a tiny white flower and apparently it’s toxic to livestock. But since we have no livestock and the pollinators like it, it can stay. It’s called ageratina altissima, or white snake root and it’s a native so of course I’m not going to remove it.


2 thoughts on “Weed Triage or Knowing Your Weed Biology

  1. The Chatsworth Lady August 10, 2015 / 3:20 pm

    I agree; when it comes to weeds we have to pick our battles, because we are inherently outnumbered! Once upon a time I felt I had to get rid of every weed ASAP; now older and hopefully wiser, I look at them and say “You’re not thinking of flowering yet, so I’ll getcha later” 😉

  2. gardendaze August 10, 2015 / 6:51 pm

    I am waiting for the “Good Weed, Bad Weed” book to come out –the one that will change the way we look at weeds the way all those bug and pesticide books have done. Sadly I am not the one to write it, but whenyou see it, you can reremember that I wished for it, at least!


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