Sunday, July 27, 2008

Embarrassing Weed Story by Carol King

Every gardener probably has an embarrassing weed story. An exotic plant pops up and is nurtured and later turns out to be a musk thistle. Or the new house has some gorgeous plant that resembles a sedum and is really myrtle spurge (on list A of the Noxious Weed Act of Colorado). The “morning glory” growing up the rake you left in the garden is not a piece of yard art but instead a neglected tool covered with bind weed!
My most embarrassing weed story to date happened last summer. I always let the sunflowers that pop up from feeding the birds grow, no matter where they are. It adds a sense of randomness to the garden that I like. Several came up in the front garden and started to grow, and grow, and grow. I knew they were going to be giant mammoth sunflowers; the kind that wins prizes and ends up in pictures of largest grown produce; next to the 1,000 pound pumpkin. I envisioned receiving the purple grand champion ribbon and could read the headlines: “Area Woman Grows World’s Largest Sunflower”.
All summer, I watered and fed my plants and was encouraged by the large leaves, the glossy green color and the height, my goodness the height. Toward the end of July, they actually grew taller than the eaves of the house and then flower buds appeared and did not look at all like sunflowers. I looked closely and saw that the leaves on my giant plants did not exactly match the leaves on the other sunflowers in the garden. I had the uneasy feeling that these might not be sunflowers at all.
Sure enough, research proved that my prize plants were Ambrosia trifida; and yes it is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). I say this to redeem myself for feeding, watering, and tending giant ragweed all summer. At least I discovered my mistake before it bloomed. Each plant has the ability to produce about a billion grains of pollen. And because it is the greatest allergen of all pollens and the main cause of hay fever in North American, my three lovingly attended plants would have garnered the headline: “Area Woman Causes Sneezing, Runny Nose, and Itchy Eyes in Major Population Area”. And no purple grand champion ribbon either.

Preparing to Eradicate Giant Ragweed