A Few Unusual Summer Weeds

Walking the dog is great because it slows me down a bit from the pace I’d usually take  during a normal walk (or as I tell her, “C’mon, this is supposed to be a walk, not a sniff!”)

But as anyone who’s ever walked a dog knows, that logic is not persuasive, so I spend a lot of time contemplating whatever’s around. And after all the dampness we’ve been having (not rain, mind you–it’s just been cool and dreary but we still have a 5″ rainfall deficit for the year.  How is that possible?!) the weeds are growing like–well, you know.

And every year about this time I do a series on weeds.  So having exhausted the usual suspects, I thought I would showcase a few of the more unusual ones that I see popping up around the neighborhood (but not so much on my own property this time–believe it or not, I still have too many trees for these, I think!)

And if you are a weed aficionado, as I am, you’ll appreciate this 2 part article from The New York Times by Anne Raver.  It showcases a new type of weed forager–not the subsistence kind that most of us might be familiar with, but one who harvests weeds and sends them to one of New York’s gourmet restaurants. She has now written a cookbook and some of her recipes sound accessible for even lowly cooks like me: creeping jenny with tomato and mozzarella?  Now caprese salad I can handle in the summer.  I just wonder if she’s referring to lysmachia or to the weed I refer to as creeping charlie?

In any event, this isn’t a post about cooking with weeds.

This was one of my favorite weeds from childhood.  I used to wrap the stems around the heads and pop the caps off.  I’m sure if anyone was aware of what I was doing I would have been roundly scolded because I’m sure I was spreading the seeds far and wide.  This is narrow-leaf plantain, and like its relative, the broad-leafed variety, it grows where the soil is compacted.  I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you I found it growing by the road.

This is thoroughwort pennycress. It’s botanical is thlaspi perfoliatum. It’s such a low grower that it can be easily overlooked.  But these little seed sacks are just loaded and ready to burst.  It too was very near the road in compacted soil (where I was walking the dog, of course.  We have no sidewalks or even curbs in our neighborhood which explains a lot about these roadside type weeds).

And this magnificent stand of nightshade is all mine.  I actually find it quite lovely.  It’s in the morning glory,  tomato and potato family, (the solanacea family) believe it or not.  You’ll see the relationship to eggplant flowers in a second here.

When the flowers are done, it forms a lovely red berry, very attractive to the birds, which is of course how I get more of it every year.  As I was mowing it down a bit on Saturday, a Colorado potato beetle dropped out–probably what’s feeding on the foliage.  Luckily I’m not growing potatoes (and it is a beautiful beetle, so long as you’re not growing potatoes!)

The birds may help me keep my grubs in check but they do provide me with some other things that I may not be so fond of–poison ivy patches, bittersweet, virginia creeper I can’t seem to control–but it’s still all worth it for the pleasure of their company and song!

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