WEEDS OR ????
BY GLADYS JEURINK
I was looking
in “Weeds of the Great Plains” published by the Nebraska Department
of Agriculture: 2003 and found many things.
Besides the identification of a plant, this book gives some of
its past history, its uses and values, if it is poisonous, and a section
call “other” which gives some special trait or warning.
The definition of weed is often said to be a plant out of place.
As I hunted through out the book I found many of the plants we grow in
our garden. The quotes I use through out this article will be from the
Here in Lincoln
I see YUCCA by a number of
mailboxes. Sometimes called
soapweed, or Spanish bayonet. “Native Americans used the fibers to
make soap, baskets, and sandals. It
is not listed as poisonous”. The
flowers may have a stem 8 to 10 feet tall and are quite dramatic
looking. Their roots must
go down extremely deep as once they are growing well in a dry area they
are almost impossible to kill. Every time I dig one up I get 4 to 5 new
vigorous ones. They make a
huge clump of leaves that cut like knives.
Finally I dug them, leaving only a single plant in each place and
painted the cut stems with Brush Killer (BK-82). This seems to have done
the trick. I might mention it took a saw to cut the stems off at ground
autumnale, called SNEEZE WEED
(it doesn’t cause sneezing) or FALSE
SUNFLOWER in the weed manual, has yellow flowers. Horticulturists
have worked with the plant and you can find orange or red ones (or a
combination of both) with very beautiful flowers. In my yard they are
(1) the first plants up in spring, (2) they bloom in the fall after
others have given up, and (3) usually about 3 feet tall. A weed in
pastures as it is poisonous to sheep and horses. The SNEEZE
WEED part comes from “Native Americans who dried and powdered the
flowers and sniffed it up the nose to break up a cold”. I have found
that you need to divide them after 2 to 3 years or they crowd out their
own roots. It is easy to take a spadeful in either fall or spring and
move it to where you want them. They
do like damp soil in full sun. Some people are allergic to their sap. I
counted 34 species in my garden plant encyclopedia so the colors and
combination of colors is growing.
missouriensis or PRAIRIE
GOLDENROD is another weed that has been hybridized and is available
in many forms in the nurseries. There
are a number of “wild” GOLDENRODS
that may show up in your yard some spring and one of them is the
Nebraska State wildflower (Solidago
gigantea) a tall vigorous plant that likes full sun. There are also
some very short ones like “GOLDEN BABY” only 24 inches high with
bright gold heads. The
rabbits ate most of my GOLDENRODS
this summer and especially the dwarfs. After I used Liquid Fence they
recovered but not in time to bloom this year.
“Some native Americans chewed leaves and flowers of Missouri
Goldenrod to relieve sore throats and chewed roots to relieve
One of my
favorite spring flowering plants is DAMES
ROCKET (Hesperis matronalis) a biennial that reseeds itself during the
summer so you can have new blooms the next spring. The highway department planted many of them so we had purple
and white edges to the road for a few years. But they mowed them off
before the seeds were ripe and they have almost disappeared. I have
found that if you remove the flower stalks before the seeds form, the
mother plant may live for another spring and bloom again.
When someone sees a bouquet of lavender and white they often
wonder how I get phlox
to bloom so early. So one of its nicknames is spring phlox. Farmers
don’t especially like them in their fields so in nature you will
generally find them around abanded farm houses. Birds like to eat the
seeds. For me it grows very
well in high shade or full sun with no attention at all.
It is not a native weed as the pioneers brought it with them from
Europe. If I want them in a
different area the next year I just throw the seeds on the top of the
ground, walk on them, and soon the new plants will be up to bloom the
next spring. Many insects love them but never seem to do much harm.
serrulata or ROCKY MOUNTAIN
BEE PLANT, or SPIDER PLANT,
is another imported “weed” from South America.
It is used by many of us as a background plant about 5 feet tall
in lavender, pink, or white and is a good food plant for butterflies as
it blooms continuously up the stem from June until August in full sun.
It likes water so in a dry year will be much shorter than in a
wet one. In the last few
years a dwarf form has been developed.
Both tall and dwarf plants are in the nurseries in the spring.
Give them plenty of room. As
the blooms develop along the top, long skinny seed pods grow all along
the stem below, so once you have them you always will. They are easy to
move to where you want them. The earlier in the spring the better they
grow. “ROCKY MOUNTAIN BEE PLANT
was an important food plant and was cultivated by some Indians. Residue
from boiled plants was used as dye or paint”
KENTUCKY BLUE GRASS is
listed as a weed as it interferes with the native prairie grasses. RED CEDAR TREES which are used for windbreaks but can take over a
pasture, as well as BEE BALM are
all listed as weeds because of some of their habits. I suggest you
read the “WEED BOOK” as
it has many interesting stories to tell. If you get a chance read the
section on dandelions. For a weed, they do a number of useful things.
are from “WEEDS OF THE GREAT PLAINS” Published by the Nebraska
Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln: 2003. Authors are James Stubbendieck, and L.M.
Landholt from the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, Institute of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and
Mitchell J. Coffin, Bureau of Plant Industry, Nebraska Department of