22 January 2012

Winter "Weeds"

This time of year, there are a few weeds that make themselves quite well known around here. The first is this beautiful little mint-like weed is called henbit, Lamium amplexicaule, and a quick search will teach you that its the bane of lawns and landscapes. This one is a non-native to the U.S. but it is widespread.

I think it's rather pretty myself, and is adding some nice purple color to the garden at the moment. That said, it is spreading itself around in an unruly sort of way. The fine thing about that is that it'll disappear once it warms up. I guess you can eat it too.

Here's another winter-spring weed that will take over quick called bedstraw, Galium aparine, often called cleavers.

Bedstraw is native. Reporting in the Gonzales Inquirer, Dr. Bob Williams said that bedstraw makes a bitter tea and has a long history of use as food and medicine. I always think of this plant as "sticky weed," because it has little hooks all over it that make it stick to humans and animals.

Williams also says that in old times the plant was known for its powers, and that it is still employed in country lore as a purifier of blood. He himself seems to have made up a tea of the stuff to use as a spring tonic in lieu of sassafrass. He says its also a host for many butterfly species, but I haven't yet confirmed.

The only real problem I see in the garden is that it spreads in very thick (but weak) mats and could compete for light and water resources with other spring emerging plants. So, I do control it to a certain extent. I don't feel the need to eradicate it, but I'll pull back the larger growths of it just to give our other plants the benefit of warm spring sun and moisture.

What's the different between a weed and a wildflower? Some people have so many bluebonnets growing in their gardens they might consider them weedy (but desirable). This year, I finally have one bluebonnet coming up from seed.

I'm not sure why I haven't had much success with these annuals in the garden, though I have noticed they love sun and really bad soil. We're mostly clay and part-shade, so that could be the reason. So last year, I planted this seedling's parent in the hot pea gravel part of the garden near the veggie beds. Maybe that'll become a little bluebonnet weed patch for us...


Nancy said...

I enjoy the weeds that grow in my garden. Mostly because that's what grows in my garden. Cleavers is related to the madder family and someone told me you can also dye wool and such with the roots of cleavers but their roots are so tiny I have never tried. My first spring plant is the wild garlic that grows abundantly in my yard and the neighbors. You know it's spring when the smell of the garlic permeates the air from mowing the yard.

kathy said...

I didn't know you could eat those weeds with the purple flowers!

For bluebonnets- I remember going with the girl scouts as a kid to spread the seed on 360. I don't remember the time of year but I know the seeds (which are pretty small) were mixed into sand. The sand etches the hard casing of the seed which makes it easier for it to grow.

I think. It makes sense though 'cause 360 always has a ton of bluebonnets!

Roberta said...

Oh, my goodness! Thank you!!! Two people asked me just yesterday what all that purple flowering weed was growing in my yard. It's nice. It's funny that it's called henbit because my hens won't actually eat it. Oh, they will if absolutely nothing else is available but it's not their first choice. Henbit. I'll have to remember that.

Amo said...

Nice! I pulled 100 Henbits yesterday, counted 18 bluebonnet bundles in the backyard (bad soil and sun, check! best year for us ever: 3 in 2010, 0 in 2011, 18 in 2012), and forwarded your shout-out to Dr. Bob.

The Curious Holts said...

Oh yea, I love this little post. I've got these same guys coming up in my yard. always wondered what sticky weed was really called. Thanks! MY hens won't eat it either. They prefer my organic spinach and lettuce. Hussies.

Henrietta said...

Thanks for the Living Magazine, I saw your blog and just love it. Where do you buy most of your plants in Austin? I like the native plants the best, but sometimes they are hard to find.