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Noxious weed or valuable native?

05/27/2014 in native plants, weeds


mockingbird visits

mockingbird visits

I keep a few pokeweeds around for the birds, and the photo-ops…

poke berries and raindrops

poke berries and raindrops

Awfully pretty…

Article by Georgia DNR advocating the value of pokeweed for the wildlife

One of the most fascinating and valuable plants in my backyard is not found in a flower bed, nor is it watered or fertilized. It grows in a narrow, undeveloped border between my yard and my neighbor’s garden.
You can use pokeberry to teach about times when something that appears to have little value can turn out to be a real treasure.

The above article discusses the giant leopard moth, hummingbirds, various mammals that make use of the pokeweed… And goes on to discuss medicinal uses, and surprisingly… even uses in solar tech!

Arts and crafts
Any discussion about pokeweed needs a mention of the constitution having been written with pokeberry ink…
Here’s a recipe for ink

Personally, I’m not going to eat anything that requires several changes of water to avoid poisoning… there are lots of weeds I can boil…

Green Deane talks at length about preparation

The Alabama Indians referred to Europeans as “those who eat poke weed.”
boiling was a difficult task… for a green that has far less nutrition than say a rat.

There are a lot of people who complain about the seedlings…


And as can be clearly seen… there are some seedlings… but to give the plant it’s due… I had a pokweed growing here for a number of years… before replacing it with these daylilies this Spring…
Of course there’s babies!


If the soil is moist, the seedlings pull easily…

ready to be mulched

ready to be mulched

The daylilies can now be mulched…
I could have saved a step… by mulching with the pokeweeds….
The permaculturists will tell you that the pokeweed is a valuable part of their soil-building regime, bringing up nutrients from the subsoil beyond where their garden plants can reach…
See Native Options for Permaculture Nutrient Accumulators

Additionally… there’s a field of thought that suggests leaving some weeds growing in the garden helps the target crop by opening routes to the deeper nutrient reserves…
As discussed in this 100+ page monograph: Weeds Guardians of the Soil by Joseph A. Cocannouer

in summation
While a weed patch might not be the most attractive sight by today’s standards, a true conservative… might want to re-examine cherished beliefs, and recognize the value of the naturally occurring plants… And take heart from Matthew 6:28;

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.
They don’t toil, neither do they spin…

God put them there for a purpose… and as Earth’s Caretakers, it’s our responsibility to seek out those purposes and work within God’s handiwork, rather than in opposition.

pokeweed gif

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by stone

A step beyond

05/09/2013 in native plants, pet peeves

The Problem:

Plants that sulk and need constant attention to keep alive…
or plants that take over the garden, and then move in on the neighbor.

Plants that the pollinators don’t recognize, which fail to attract birds and butterflies to the garden.

The Solution:

Plant native plants.

Native plants are able to tolerate the climate, don’t die during a hot spell,
or get crowded out by the other plants, if we get busy and forget to weed…

Native plants are recognized by the pollinators, and provide fruits n seeds for the birds,
plus the butterflies are able to raise their families.

The Problem:

There’s some confusion about natives…

For instance, trying to grow a plant adapted to the cloud forest in the Smoky mountains down here in middle Georgia… In the heat and constant droughts… the plant might grow this spring… But the heat and drought is coming, it always does.

The Smoky mountains are one state away… In Tennessee! Those plants could reasonably be considered southeast regional plants, and it is a death sentence to bring them here.

The Solution:

Garden with Naturals…

go that extra step beyond regional natives…

Every time I start a new personal garden, there is a ton of new plants that I have to learn.

From 1 county to the next, there may be entirely different plant communities… Or even from one city lot to the next.

Even coming into a freshly scraped lot I’ve seen wildflowers…
In one small scraped lot, I discovered patches of butterfly weed, liatris, asters, and, I’m positive that Ida found a lot more, if the homeowner hadn’t been in such a hurry to get a lawn sodded… At that, she showed a bit more wisdom than the average home buyer who comes in and has the turf put down first and then asks for a garden in the areas where the sod people didn’t get anything done… If the soil is too poor for sod… Must be a good spot for flowers…

The thing is..  a bit more patience reaps greater rewards… There are very nice grasses that come up when allowed… Much nicer (in my opinion) than those nasty invasive turf grasses… They can be mowed, and if left alone, will bloom! Grass blooms among the wildflowers…. A garden, just like God would grow…

love-grassLove grass in bloom

It takes time to identify all the plants that are on any one spot of ground… We can take the time or nuke it all out of existence… And there are a lot of rare and endangered plants being lost by this rush to have a yard just like next door…

Has anyone considered that if they grew a garden like God’s, the neighbors next door might be interested in getting shut of his ugly turf and formal hedge in favor of something a bit more wildlife friendly?

The Problem:

Personally, I don’t think anyone should pull a weed that they can’t identify.
I’ve heard horror stories about people pulling an entire row of seedlings that they didn’t recognize…
As heart-breaking as that can be, I think that spraying round-up is much worse.
It’s so easy… There’s a big patch of weeds… Quick! Spray em…

I’ve been observing round-up in the wildflower garden, and it hasn’t been good.
I have a garden where the homeowner runs out and sprays the chickweed with absolutely no thought about the plants that might be hidden under that big patch of weeds.

She’s killed 3 big patches of bloodroot, but the chickweed hasn’t been affected.

My observation is that while the sprayed patch of chickweed does turn yellow, the new (chickweed) seedlings emerge as soon as the light reaches the ground under the weeds.

And… The round-up lingers… Killing the desirables when they eventually breaks dormancy.

In another yard, I discovered gonolobus being mowed with the rest of the vegetation. Gonolobus is a rare milkweed vine, it isn’t offered anywhere…


Yet, before I could take action to showcase this rare plant in a garden of mostly rare and endangered plants, one of the turf crew sprayed round-up over the entire patch… looks like a war zone. dead loss…

If your aim is to reduce the complexity of the plant community, round-up seems to do that…
If your aim is to remove undesirable plants and keep the desirable ones, I just don’t see that happening…
You’ll have less species of unknown plants, but you’ll end up with a lot more of the weeds that aren’t bothered by the round-up.

We all know about the pigweed in the Midwest… I’m seeing a ton of winter annuals, like the chickweed, and the dead nettle, plus henbit.

Now, these weeds do have a place, I like them fine in those horrible Bermuda lawns, they give the bees and butterflies a nectar source that is otherwise missing…. But in a wildflower garden?

When we’re busily trying to kill everything that we don’t recognize, we aren’t learning anything.

Our yards don’t have to be a dangerous expanse of poisoned green where the children and pets dare not go… Where birds die… Where the yard service comes every week and runs those noisy mowers and blowers, disrupting your peace in a vain effort to achieve an unobtainable goal of the perfect green lawn… Which doesn’t even exist without monstrous outlays of money for irrigation, and constant fertilization and herbicide regimens… Just so that the lawn crew can come every week… Seems like they’re the only people getting any use out of the lawn… Getting their exercise… While the homeowner vegetates inside…

A solution:

In my current personal garden, I’ve discovered patches of clasping heliotrope, Carolina rock-rose, amsonia, coral honeysuckle, southern indigo… The southern tumbleweed… White liatris, Sandhills ironweed, and many others…

clasping heliotrope

 Clasping heliotrope with American painted ladies and buckeye butterflies

In my previous garden, 90 miles away or so… there were native azaleas, buckeye bushes, wild blueberries, grancy graybeard, royal ferns, ostritch ferns, among others… green n gold, penstemons, wild geranium, atamasco lilies, wild phlox, plus tons more…

In between, I had a garden in Tennessee that had those rare and endangered lady slipper orchids, tiny crested iris, native azaleas, sourwood trees, rhododendrons…

It should be obvious that it would’ve been a tremendous loss to spray round-up and put in turf over these gardens…

In wildflower walks at state parks and arboretums, you will often see where a natural patch of flowers has been designated as an attraction, and a path leads to the beautiful patch of naturally growing wildflowers…

How often does the homeowner recognize the value of what they have?
I once saw a yard that had this large patch of bloodroot… Gorgeous! But… The property owner had pathways through the flowers, and was using the area to pile the weeds and brush from other areas of the property!!!

I once asked some lady why her woods weren’t full of flowers… She said… We’ll get you to plant some… That was no answer… I wanted to know about the naturals… The ones that should’ve been there… before I got there.

I’ve since seen a similar patch of woodland turned from a patch of flowers to a weed patch…. The home-owner paid the turf crew to clear out the saplings, and spray round-up on all the natural woodland vegetation, and to add insult to injury… They mowed up the leaves to mulch them down, and left bare denuded soil… No surprise that the weeds filled in…

How about we stop spraying round-up, and planting turf for the benefit of the turf maintenance crews, and instead enjoy patches of natural beauty in our own front yards… where we won’t have to drive for hours?

Comments? Complaints?

I’d love to hear them… Please use the form provided.

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by stone

2011 Summer pictures

01/05/2012 in gardening, native plants, Summer


(part 3 of a 4 part series)

Summer is a time of bright colours and critters and weeds.

Being in a drought doesn’t prevent flowers from blooming. There were endless blooms in the watered gardens, and even the unwatered xeriscape gardens were bright with blooms and pollinators.

Eventually, some people did get some relief from the oppressive heat and endless drought with popcorn showers, and the rest of us saw clouds, and felt teased.

But even when the rain passed us by in favor of the neighbor’s garden, the clouds and cooler temp for an hour or the rest of the afternoon, were a blessing.

On to Autumn

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