Piedmont weeds (Six on Saturday #34, September 29, 2018)

I just realized it has been seven weeks since I did a Six on Saturday post.  It’s getting trickier to find six things that I haven’t already talked about, so today I thought I’d showcase plants that I normally wouldn’t mention at all.

1. Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)

stiltgrass

This stuff is the worst.  It’s an annual grass with long, jointed stems that can root at the nodes to spread over flat ground or climb and sprawl to smother plants up to about two feet (70 cm) tall.  Stiltgrass was apparently introduced into the U.S. about 100 years ago, when dry stems were used as packing material for porcelain shipments.   Around here, it can cover large areas of moist open woodland, along creeks and roads, where it completely chokes out native wildflowers.  Seeds can survive several years in the soil, so even very careful weeding appears totally ineffective the next spring.  According to Nancy Goodwin of Montrose Garden, stiltgrass can be eliminated by thoroughly weeding the same area for five or six years without fail.  Mowing has no effect, as shown by the very short stiltgrass that combines with crabgrass to form much of my lawn in late summer.  The busy (or lazy) gardener’s approach that seems to work relatively well is to cover all flowerbeds with a couple of inches of hardwood mulch every few years.  The mulch stops seeds from germinating and enriches the beds, but it must be renewed as it decays, or stiltgrass will return

2. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

poison ivy
A small poison ivy seedling with a colorful beetle.  Is it too much to hope that the beetle eats Toxicodendron foliage?

The berries of this native vine/shrub are important food for birds, so seedlings often sprout around the bird feeder and bird bath, or under trees where birds like to perch.  For small seedlings, I wear disposable nitrile gloves to pull the plant and then peel off the glove to trap the seedling inside.  For larger plants, I use glyphosate–that’s the only time I use glyphosate in the garden.

3.  Creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula)

creeping cucumber
creeping cucumber creeping up the mesh of our screen porch

This native annual vine is, as its name suggests, a member of the Curcubitaceae (gourd family).  The vines are annoying when they form an untidy tangle that smothers tall perennials.  The fruit are apparently edible when green but are very effective laxatives when ripe and black.  Birds and squirrels eat them and distribute the seed throughout my garden.

4.  Mulberry weed, hairy crabweed (Fatoua villosa)

hsiry crabweed
Distinctive flower clusters of mulberry weed with a few brown seeds visible.

I think this Asian member of the Moraceae (fig and mulberry family) arrived in my garden via some potted plants from a local botanical garden.  It is an annual in the garden but invades pots in the greenhouse year round.  The foliage of this species closely resembles various members of the mint family (e.g. catnip, lemon balm), but the hairy flower clusters are distinctive.

5.  Chamber bitter (Phyllanthus urinaria)

chamber bitter

An Asian species that is now distributed widely in the southeastern U.S., chamber bitter produces many seeds in little capsules along the underside of the stems at leaf axils.  Chamber bitter is a problem mainly in bare soil, such as in my vegetable garden, or where mulch has decayed.

6.  Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). 

pokeweed

I have heard that this piedmont native is sometimes grown as an ornamental perennial in Europe.  An 8-foot (2 m) tall specimen with shiny leaves, red stems, and dark purple, almost black berries is definitely impressive, but wildlife spread the seeds all over the place.  Even small seedlings have a deep taproot that makes them difficult to completely remove, and like dandelions, they’ll return if you leave the taproot in the soil.

For more Six on Saturday, hopefully including plants that you’d actually like to grow, head over to The Propagator.

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16 thoughts on “Piedmont weeds (Six on Saturday #34, September 29, 2018)

    1. Also, nettles are tastier–when I was a kid, a friends mother used it like spinach. I was quite fond of her couscous with lamb and nettles.

      I was surprised to discover that there are nettles here in the United States. I think they were introduced and are more common in the northern and western states.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for the name of Japanese stiltgrass. I’ve seen it everywhere and thought it must be a native. A Chinese plant whose clusters of seed pods arrived here as packing material for breakable items is Paulownia tomentosa. I remember that tree at my aunt’s house in the 1940s but only learned what it was in the 1970s.

    I was surprised to find poison ivy exhibited at the Berlin Botanic Garden in 1974, but with appropriate cautionary signage. The Scottish botanist and plant collector John Lyon (1765-1814) collected it in the U.S. without knowing the danger until after he had harvested large quantities of the vines growing on trees. Lyon died in Asheville, NC.

    In a class taught by J. C. Raulston in 1991, I learned that pokewood fruiting stems were all the rage in Europe for flower arranging. My mother liked the very youngest leaves of pokeweed (“poke sallet”), so we sometimes had it in the spring. She boiled them first, I think, then cooked them with turnip greens. Not a favorite of mine. As the leaves mature, they become more toxic, like every part of the plant.

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  2. Happy to read you again !
    Many invasive plants that I didn’t know except for the pokeweed.
    Why do you grow Melothria pendula if you don’t eat fruit? Just to feed birds and squirrels? I grew Melothria scabra( cucamelons) this summer and fruit looked like these but were delicious (pickles with vinegar)

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    1. I don’t grow Melothria pendula. It grows itself, and I pull it out when I have time. I have heard good things about some of the other Melothria species. Maybe I’ll try Melothria scabra some year.

      I wonder if Melothria pendula fruits would be good pickled…

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  3. Pokeweed just arrived here in the last decade or so. It is not native. I do not know what it is doing here. I saw it in Oregon first. it was supposedly planted there by someone who liked the shoots. That sounded crazy to me. I thought that people only ate it because it was there. If it were not there, there are so many better vegetables to grow that do not take up so much space, and are not toxic most of the time!

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  4. An interesting six weeds that we don’t have here, but we do of course have our own species! Annoyingly weeds seem to self-seed without any trouble whereas the plants I would love to self-seed never do 😦

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  5. I think poke berries are used in dye, but I can’t imagine wanting one in my garden. Like burdock, they’re huge & can be foraged in the wilder places. I wondered if your creeping cuke was another name for cucumelon, then saw Fred’s comment. I agree w/him that the cucumelon tastes really good & hope to find more recipes for it, but I don’t ever remember coming across creeping cuke when I lived over there. Should you try, should you resist . . .

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      1. The chamber bitter and the mulberry weed haven’t yet found their way here. I hope they stay clear, I have plenty of others which seem to fill in well for them.
        Actually my cucumber is a bur cucumber, so even less interesting, and the pokeweed is sort of encouraged by me… it is a yellow leaved sort, and just as weedy, but I can easily pretend I meant to grow it!

        Liked by 1 person

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