Three Common Weeds in May

Three Common Weeds in May

In May when our gardens wake up it’s typical for people to wonder if what they are seeing in their yards are weeds or a desirable perennial plant. The old joke about this is: “How do you tell the difference between a weed and a valuable perennial? You tug on it…if it comes up easily, it was a valuable plant.”

A better way to tell if you have a weed is to look carefully around your property and compare the plant in question with what is growing in other areas. If you see the same plant that’s in your flowerbed appearing in the “wild” area along the road, in random spaces by the air conditioner or driveway, or in the neighbor’s lawns, it’s likely that what you’re seeing is indeed a weed.

Here are three weeds that are growing gangbusters at this time of year on Cape Cod.

Mugwort is frequently mistaken for chrysanthemum foliage in a garden. It's a difficult weed to get rid of, so pull it promptly. The way to identify mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is that it's bright green on the top but the underside of the leaves are silver.

Mugwort is frequently mistaken for chrysanthemum foliage in a garden. It’s a difficult weed to get rid of, so pull it promptly. The way to identify mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is that it’s bright green on the top but the underside of the leaves are silver.

 

Red sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is also a difficult weed in that it thrives in so many different locations. There are two interesting things about sorrel: first, it's an "indicator weed." It grows where soil is acidic, so seeing it pop up in a lawn, for example, tells you that you might want to add lime to your turf. The second point of interest about sorrel is that it's edible. Sorrel has a nice lemony flavor and is good in salads, soups or quickly fried with garlic and other greens.

Red sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is also a difficult weed in that it thrives in so many different locations. There are two interesting things about sorrel: first, it’s an “indicator weed.” It grows where soil is acidic, so seeing it pop up in a lawn, for example, tells you that you might want to add lime to your turf. The second point of interest about sorrel is that it’s edible. Sorrel has a nice lemony flavor and is good in salads, soups or quickly fried with garlic and other greens.

This is how sorrel looks when it's young.

This is how sorrel looks when it’s young.

 

This plant is so robust and healthy looking that you'd think it would be a valuable perennial, right? This is Oenothera biennis, a wild form of evening primrose. Yes, it has a yellow flower, and yes, it is a weed. Leave it if you like it, but feel free to pull it out!

This plant is so robust and healthy looking that you’d think it would be a valuable perennial, right? This is Oenothera biennis, a wild form of evening primrose. Yes, it has a yellow flower, and yes, it is a weed. Leave it if you like it, but feel free to pull it out!

Here is an interesting weed ID site that you might find helpful.

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2 Comments

  1. Emily Woudenberg on May 28, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Thank you, C.L., for your article on “Common Weeds in May.” The images were really helpful and prompted me to go outside and start pulling! I also appreciated the Weed ID Site you listed. Unfortunately I recognized about 90% of the weeds immediately around my property! But fortunately I now know what they look like and can take measures.

    • CLFornari on May 28, 2016 at 8:36 am

      Glad you found this helpful, Emily! I’m all to familiar with these weeds myself…fortunately, I find pulling weeds to be a calming activity once I surrender to it.

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