Introduction to My Wonderful Weeds Blog

To talk kindly about the weeds in my blog, we first need to identify those weeds of which many people despise…!

Common Ragwort is despised by horse owners in particular but lots of wildlife, including this house sparrow is depending on it! See more in this post. (Picture by Matt Summers)

A useful place to find this information is on the RHS website please see here. You can also find out how to tackle them. It mentions over 20 most troublesome weeds, for which I will hope to do a write up in the coming weeks.

I don’t really want to repeat what this brilliant website of the RHS says, as my weekly blog wants to highlight the positive things about those weeds which are also just being themselves; one of the many native plants of these Isles.

They grow in soil and habitat that they naturally like to grow in and often we are actually helping them greatly by providing a pleasant environment to thrive even more!

So, if we don’t want them we just have to provide the opposite environment in which they usually thrive! But unfortunately it is not this easy as weeds can also be very adaptable  and this is probably why we call them weeds, as we don’t like it when things don’t behave as we want them to, overstep their mark, take advantages of the situation or are just too damned successful!

Here is the meaning of the word weed by Danu’s Irish Herb Garden-blog:

I am writing about language today for a number of reasons, reasons which mainly make me angry.  Let’s start with the word “weeds“.  Weed is derived from the old English weod – meaning grass, herb, weed. You could say it was one of those catch-all words, meaning anything that grew that was smaller than a shrub or tree.  Nowadays the word has only negative connotations which means many people inadvertently destroy the natural medicine that is growing outside their door.

For example, you would not plant a Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) into a wall or an attractive flowering plant in between your slabs on your patio, but dandelion, herb-bennet, bindweed and various other weeds  just love those conditions as it usually is cool and damp there!

Grouping weeds:

We have the perennial weeds; “which come back every year”

This is a common, funny quote by customers and staff in our local garden-centre. A perennial could be a shrub, tree or, a bit more difficult to understand/classify,  a herbaceous perennial which can be

  • deciduous (i.e. dying back to a rootstock each year),
  • evergreen (i.e. foliage all year round),
  • spreading (i.e. by roots often called rhizomes or above ground with stolons; such as our common strawberry) or
  • clump forming as well as
  • long-lasting or short-lived!

Perennials do not have to waste energy on producing flowers and seeds every year.  Mostly if plants are in good soil and thrive they are more reluctant to flower, wanting to grow/make mass (i.e. food for the plant) instead. Why waste energy by producing seeds?

Some examples are ground elder, dandelions, couch grass and creeping buttercup which can grow rapidly in good soil with less flowers.

Then we also have:

  • The annual weeds; these live only 1 year or less as they usually die after they have flowered. Some weeds can even have many generations per year and if they are not attractive to us that is of course annoying. Examples are hairy bittercress, annual meadograss, cleavers.
  • Lawn-weeds: more about this specific group in another blog
  • Trees and shrubs or woody weedsoften native species which produce massive amounts of wind-dispersed seeds such as the Willow, Common Alder, Birch, Ash or Sycamore trees especially. There are also the fruiting type of shrubs such as Common Elder or one of the many Cotoneasters and what about our native Blackberry (Bramble)? This could be a problem when living in areas where many of these plants grow naturally and birds will eat and drop the seed as a result.

Below follows a complete weed list of 23 main ones found on the RHS website). I have reduced the contents. Most of those will be covered in my posts in future and a link will be provided to find more information about that plant and/or its family.

The worrying part of the dandelion is the ‘clock’ (Picture by Matt Summers)

1)    Dandelion

Their large yellow flowers and furry seed heads make them easily recognisable. They often invade lawns and can be difficult to get rid of in the border and in cracks in paving. Best to stop them taking root by providing specimen plants with a surrounding weed-suppressing mulch. Established weeds can be dug out by hand, ensure you get all of the long tap root, or you can spot treat with a glyphosate stick – you may need to do this more than once.

2)    Woody perennial weeds

Trees and shrubs may pop up in your garden because a seed has been blown in by the wind or transferred by wildlife visitors to the garden. It is best to uproot these weeds as soon as you notice them and before they form an established root system, usually a long tap root.

See more information on getting rid of woody weeds such as self-seeded trees popping up in the wrong place.

3) Common name: Green alkanet and see in my post here
Botanical name: Pentaglottis sempervirens
Area affected: Damp shady areas and along walls and buildings
Caused by: Spreads by seed and regenerates from the roots
Timing: Flowers April to June; treat spring to autumn

The pretty blue forget-me-not flowers of green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) are attractive but it soon becomes a weed in damp shady gardens. It is pollinated by bees and bumblebees and a brownish-red dye was extracted from its roots.

4) Common name: Herb bennet or wood avens and see my post here
Botanical name: Geum urbanum
Area affected: Shady, moist borders and grassland
Caused by: Regenerates from root fragments and seeds
Timing: Rosette of leaves in winter, flowers from May- Aug; treat spring to autumn

5) Common name: Couch grass, scutch grass, twitch grass and see my post here on Poaceae of Grass family
Latin name: Elymus repens
Areas affected: Beds, borders and lawns
Main causes: Weed with creeping underground stems
Timing: Seen spring to autumn; treat in spring or autumn

6) Common and botanical names: Hedge bindweed, bellbind (Calystegia sepium) and field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and see here in my post
Areas affected: Uncultivated ground, beds, borders, paths, drives and lawns
Main causes: Twining weed with creeping underground stems (rhizomes)
Timing: Seen spring to autumn; treat from summer to autumn

7) Common name: Japanese knotweed   and see my post here on Polygonaceae Latin name:  Fallopia japonica (syn.Polygonum cuspidatum)                           Areas affected: Waysides, beds, borders and paving                                           Main causes: Weed with creeping roots                                                               Timing: Seen late spring to autumn; treat in summer

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is a weed that spreads rapidly. In winter the plant dies back to ground level, but by early summer, the bamboo-like stems emerge from rhizomes deep underground to shoot to over 2.1m (7ft), suppressing all other plant growth. Eradication requires determination as it is very hard to remove by hand or eradicate with chemicals. New legislation now covers its control – see website

 8) Common name: Ground elder, gout weed, bishop weed, jump-about
Botanical name:  Aegopodium podagraria
Areas affected: Beds, borders, new lawns, all soil types
Main causes: May establish from seed, but usually arrives via rhizomes from neighbouring gardens, or stem fragments in composts or manures
Timing: Leaves appear in spring and summer, but rhizomes and roots persist year-round

9) Common name: Wood sorrel, yellow sorrel, pink sorrel or pink shamrock
Botanical name:  Oxalis corniculata debilisO. latifolia
Areas affected: Beds, borders and lawns
Main causes: Spreads via bulbils and seed
Timing: Seen and treated in summer

10) Common name: Lesser celandine, Pilewort and see here on its family
Botanical name: Ficaria verna
Areas affected: Beds, borders, areas planted with bulbs and lawns
Main causes: Weed with persistent root tubers
Timing: Seen spring; treat in spring

11) Common name: Enchanter’s nightshade and here in my post on three common Walsall weeds!
Latin name: Circaea lutetiana
Areas affected: Woodland beds and borders in shade
Main causes: Weed with spreading stolons
Timing: Flowering in summer; treat in flower or just after

12) Common name: Cleavers, goosegrass, sticky willie
Botanical name: Galium aparine
Areas affected: Beds and borders, hedgerows and uncultivated ground
Main causes: Easily distributed seed produced in large quantities
Timing: Seen spring-autumn; treat during growing season

13) Common name: Herb robert and my post on its genus/family
Botanical name: Geranium robertianum
Area affected: Shady borders, rocky areas and paths
Main causes: Explosive seed pods spread the fine seed over a wide area
Timing: Flowers from spring to autumn; treat from spring to autumn

14) Common name: bittercress, hairy bittercress, wavy bittercress (see my post on Brassicaceae)
Latin name:  Cardamine hirsuta (hairy bittercress),  flexuosa (wavy bittercress)
Areas affected: surface of containers, bare soil, paths
Main causes: weed with explosive seed capsules
Timing: remove whenever seen

15) Common name: creeping buttercup (post on Ranunculaceae)
Latin name: Ranunculus repens
Areas affected: woodland beds and borders in shade
Main causes: weed with spreading runners and seeds
Timing: flowering in spring; treat in spring and summer

After mild wet winters and in heavy soils rich in clay, creeping buttercup spreads widely and is difficult to eradicate from amongst permanent plantings in borders and in the fruit garden. This weed’s presence often indicates the need for improvements to soil structure and drainage.

16) Common name: Nettle
Botanical name: Urtica dioica, U. urens and see my post here
Areas affected: Many, including newly cultivated soil, especially where phosphate levels are high
Main causes: Nettles germinate easily from seeds
Timing: Seen and treated spring to autumn

Perennial nettles (Urtica dioica) and the annual nettle (Urtica urens) are usually considered to be weeds, although if you have the space to leave some, they can be an excellent source of food and habitat for butterflies such as the red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell.

It is perhaps most troublesome in loose, newly cultivated soil, especially where phosphate levels are high. The creeping surface stems can extend for some considerable distance, rooting at the nodes and producing aerial shoots.

Smaller than perennial stinging nettle, this weed grows quickly and sets seed from a young age.  It favours rich, fertile soil such as well-manured vegetable gardens. It is commonest in spring and late summer. If you remove by hand, wear gloves to avoid stings.

17) Common name: Creeping thistle part of the very large Asteraceae family see here
Botanical name: Cirsium arvense
Areas affected: Especially grassland and uncultivated soil
Main causes: Thistles spread via creeping roots and air-borne seeds
Timing: Seen and treated from spring to autumn

Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) is a weed that spreads using lateral roots. These roots are brittle and readily re-shoot if broken. They should be controlled if you wish to grow garden plants in the area, since they compete for light, water and food.

 18) Common name: Rosebay willowherb, fireweed see my post here for the Onagraceae family
Botanical name: Chamaenerion angustifolium
Synonyms: Chamerion angustifoliumEpilobium angustifolium
Area affected: Disturbed ground
Caused by: Windborne seed and branching underground stems (rhizomes)
Timing: Flowers June to September; treat spring to autumn

A white cultivar, Chamaenerion angustifolium ‘Alba’ is available as a garden plant and shows less invasive tendencies than the pink form.

19) Common name: Chickweed is part of the Caryophyllaceae family see here
Botanical name: Stellaria media
Areas affected: Beds and borders, roadsides and uncultivated ground
Main causes: Large numbers of easily distributable seed produced throughout the growing season
Timing: Seen all year; treat from spring to autumn

20) Common name: Horsetail and often wrongly called mare’s tail: ‘The Mare’s Tail (Hippuris vulgaris) must not be confused with the Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). The Mare’s Tail is an aquatic flowering plant’ from
Botanical name: Equisetum arvense
Areas affected: Beds, borders, lawns, paths and patios
Main causes: May establish from spores, but usually arrives via rhizomes from neighbouring gardens, or stem fragments in composts or manures
Timing: Seen in spring and summer; treat in late summer.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense),  is an invasive, deep-rooted perennial weed that will spread quickly to form a dense carpet of foliage, crowding out less vigorous plants in beds and borders.

21) Common and botanical name: Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and curled dock ( crispus) see in my posts on its family members of Polygonaceae)
Area affected: Recently disturbed ground, rough grass, borders and lawns
Main symptoms: Thick tap root that can re-grow and abundant seeds
Timing: Leaves appear in spring and seed-heads persist into winter; treat spring to autumn

22) Shepherds purse (Capsella bursa pastoris) (another member of the Brassicaceae see here)

Rosettes of leaves grow all year round, sending up characteristic heart-shaped seed pods after white flowers. Buried seeds can still germinate after 30 years of lying dormant in the soil, so prevent a potential problem by removing plants and seed heads as soon as you spot them.

23) Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) from the large Asteraceae family here

Produces seeds all year round. Although hoeing seedlings is effective, remove the larger uprooted plants as these can still set seeds that germinate. Seeds spread on the wind, but only last a few years in the soil.

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