Gardening in the Southwest Corridor – Weed or Flower?
A common topic of conversation among gardeners – is this a weed or flower? Is it useful or not? Here is a sampling of plants found in the gardens around the SWC along with thoughts on what to do. In general: (1) If you are planting or weeding, you can welcome native wildflowers wherever they make sense; (2) Don’t plant invasive plants; (3) if you have volunteered to help with weeding and aren’t sure what is a weed and what is a flower, focus on pulling a few well-known weeds such as those featured here; (4) Talk to your gardening neighbors about what to plant, what to keep and what to remove.
Morning Glories — A beautiful blossom, but surprisingly, morning glories have become an invasive problem in the park because they grow wild and vine around shrubs and other plants. Please do not plant them in SWCP gardens.
Japanese Dodder — Japanese Dodder is a leafless vine that wraps around plants and actually embeds itself into the stem. It is wildly invasive. If you see it, cut back the plant that it is on (or pull it out completely). Put it in the trash, not the compost. It’s important to catch this before it seeds.
Garlic mustard — originally imported as a culinary herb — has become a serious invasive plant that changes soil chemistry by locking up the phosphorus that other plants need. Pull it up by the roots and carefully discard (don’t compost) it. Recently featured in the Boston Globe Gardening column as the “Worst New Invasive in Bloom Now.”
Butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris Mill.) grows prolifically around the Southwest Corridor and most of us regularly weed it out of our vegetable and flower gardens. However, at the end of the summer, it surprises with a very pretty yellow flower. So yes, it is a weed, but if you leave some in a spot that is short of other plants it won’t do much harm and it will bloom late in August. But don’t encourage it, because it is listed in some states as an invasive: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=livu2.
Milkweed is essential to the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly, and it is planted deliberately in the SWC butterfly garden. If you find it in your garden, and if it is in an out-of-the-way spot in the back of the garden you can leave it as a welcome to butterflies. Otherwise, you can remove it as needed. (See link #4 on our the SWCPC Section 1 map for more information about the butterfly garden.)
Clover grows everywhere, and tends to crowd out other plants in a garden. It is, however, useful for fixing nitrogen in the soil. And red clover, the larger variety common to this area, is a good butterfly plant. Yes, it is a weed, and we generally remove it, but it is okay to leave some in places where you can welcome it.
Knotweed is an extremely invasive plant, and must be removed carefully. If knotweed roots are left alive underground, the plant will spread and become more entrenched. If it is found, the first step is to cut off the top of the plant and dispose of it (not in compost). The next step, if possible, is to remove the roots.
Elder flower (Bishops’ Weed) has started to be a problem. very invasive.
Dandelions should be removed early, before they go to seed, and before the roots become too deep. (Some gardeners enjoy the color, and let them bloom, but then remove them before they go to seed.)
Carpet weed is a weed that is easy to remove by pulling it out, since it has short roots. As the name suggests, it is a low-growing plant which carpets the ground and crowds out other plants, and so it is good to remove it.
Purslane (Portulaca oleraceea) is a weed, but is also edible and is valued as a source of vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. It is reasonably easy to remove from gardens by pulling it out.
Southwest Corridor Park Conservancy, Box 171553, Boston, MA 02117 | [email protected]
About the Asian Longhorn Bettle
See photos – know what to report (and what not to report) if you think you see this invasive insect. Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project.
Weed that has stems that has seeds in them
Originally Published by Sandra Mason on 07/26/2003
Is it a weed or a wonderful taste treat? Purslane is cursed and curried all at the same time. For most of us, it comes as an unwelcome guest. Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is probably in your garden right now but not because you invited it to dinner.
Purslane is native to India and Persia and has spread throughout the world as an edible plant and as a weed. Many cultures embrace purslane as a food.
Purslane has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers. They look like baby jade plants. The stems lay flat on the ground as they radiate from a single taproot sometimes forming large mats of leaves. It is closely related to Rose Moss, Portulaca grandiflora, grown as a “not so weedy” ornamental. Check out U of I’s Midwestern Turfgrass Weed Identification website for some great pictures of purslane.
Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.
If you are trying to control purslane the number one rule is don’t let it go to seed. About three weeks after you notice seedlings, the flowers and seeds will be produced. Also plants or plant pieces that are uprooted but not removed can root back into the soil. Again depressing or exciting. Running a tiller through purslane is called purslane multiplication.
Purslane grows just about anywhere from fertile garden soil to the poorest arid soils. A rock driveway is nirvana to purslane. It’s succulent characteristic makes it very drought tolerant. Purslane prefers the fine textured soils of seedbeds as in vegetable gardens or open soil areas in paths. It doesn’t germinate well when seeds are more than 1/2 inch deep. Tilling brings seeds to the surface where they quickly germinate. Mulching will help to control purslane. Purslane seeds germinate best with soil temperatures of 90 degrees so mulching may again help to control it. Since it germinates in high soil temperatures also means it doesn’t appear until June when preemergent herbicides may have lost their effectiveness.
Now if you are in the “if you can’t beat ’em than eat ’em” category, you won’t go hungry this year. There are plenty of purslane plants out there and I’m sure your neighbors would love to share theirs with you. If you are a connoisseur, you can also purchase purslane seeds for the cultivated forms for better flavor and easier harvesting. They tend to grow more upright than the wild types.
With purslane aficionados the preference is in eating fresh young plants, and especially young leaves and tender stem tips. The taste is similar to watercress or spinach. Use purslane in salads or on sandwiches instead of lettuce or pickles. Next time order a ham and purslane on rye. Purslane can also be cooked as a potherb, steamed, stir-fried or pureed. It tends to get a bit slimy if overcooked. It can be substituted for spinach in many recipes. Seeds are also edible.
The Purslane Controversy
A weed is a weed, except when differing opinions on what is considered a weed exist. Think of the dandelion-I am sure you have seen lawns filled with them and seen all of the commercials advertising ways to destroy them. Purslane also falls into the category of weed to some, great plant to others.
An Introduction to Purslane:
Purslane goes by multiple names: known scientifically as Portulaca oleracea, it is also called pigweed, little hogweed, red root, and others. It is in the succulent family with reddish stems that grow close to the ground. Purslane flowers are tiny, yellow, and have five petals. It self-pollinates and has small black seeds.
Purslane is edible and used for culinary purposes in various parts of the world. (Warning: Consult your physician before incorporating anything new into your diet.) It tastes similar to slightly tart spinach, and many people love it raw, especially in salads. During the neverending weeding sessions this summer, I, too, have snacked on this abundant plant. It is said to contain various vitamins, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and antioxidants.
It is technically an invasive weed. Purslane began in India and China but now exists on every continent. It adapts quickly to many environments and reproduces wildly. It can root from any of its nodes (part of a plant stem from which leaves emerge), and its seeds can still produce plants after decades of lying dormant in the soil. It also makes seeds without pollination. Purslane loves moisture and is drought tolerant.
Some believe Purslane competes with other plants for space, water, and nutrients, affecting crop yields and making the lives of growers harder than necessary. Others have found it an excellent ground cover around walkways and a companion plant for some vegetables. However, it will make it more challenging for seedlings to break ground. People who use it as ground cover use it with healthy and more mature plant starts that love moisture but have roots that rot quickly. Because many of our community gardeners are growing vegetables and doing so very close to other gardeners’ plots, Garden City Harvest calls Purslane a weed and we expect all community gardeners to weed it and keep it under control. Most farmers agree with that sentiment.
Tips for Weed Control:
Start managing it when it is young. We recommend weeding it with the hula or hoop hoe!
As with other pests, inspect your garden regularly.
Remove the plants before they flower. You can try soil solarization, aka covering the soil with a transparent plastic sheet to weaken the plant with extreme heat.
Mulch around your plants. Mulch must be at least 3 inches thick.
Weed by hand. Find the roots and pull them from the ground before flowering. Make sure you remove as much of the plant material as possible.