Weeds: What’s in a Name?

Some weeds have lovely, attractive names, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want them in your garden. One of my favorite weeds is Wild Carrot, part of the parsley family. That name sounds appealing, doesn’t it? But better yet is its other nickname, Queen Anne’s Lace–though most call it pernicious. Both the

Daucus carota, Queen Anne’s Lace

leaves and the flat-topped umbels are lacy. I invite it into my garden because it attracts butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. There’s also Cow Parsnip which I tried to grow; it lasted for one season only. The first time I saw it, I thought Holy cow, that’s the biggest Queen Anne’s Lace I’ve ever seen! Nope. Cow Parsnip,  also in the parsley family. It grows up to 8′ and is quite dramatic looking. The Milkweeds, too, are considered weeds, but many have been cultivated for years for garden use, and monarch butterflies and bees flock to them. The name relates to the milky substance that seeps from a

Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed

broken stem. Showy Milkweed–doesn’t that name make you want to plant it in your garden? It is showy, but it does travel by underground rootstock. Watch out. And watch out for Chicory, too. As much as I love blue flowers in my garden, that’s not a weed I want. Nice name, very tough plant. How about Dandelion–a fun name with meter and rhythm? They’re ubiquitous, with those wind-borne seeds spreading the weed everywhere.  Common

Foeniculum vulgare, Common Fennel

Fennel? I love its licorice fragrance as do the butterflies and bees. I have it. And then there’s Common Salsify, a tall grass-like plant with attractive purple flowers. Many people eat the roots; I’ve had it puréed like mashed potatoes. Not bad, but it flew into my garden and I’ve never been able to eradicate it. I do like the yellow Wild Mustard and the purple and white Wild Radish, both in the mustard family. My question is, why do nasty weeds have such appealing names? Who named them? And why don’t the names reflect their characteristics? Sticky, prickly, smelly, poisonous, invasive, names to tease you, fool you, attract you. Here are the names of some weeds you do NOT want in your garden, no matter how appealing they may sound: Yellow Starthistle, Purslane, Yellow Nutsedge, Spotted Spurge, Common Teasel, Lambsquarters, Scotch Thistle, Spotted Catsear, Meadow Knapweed, Medusahead, Red Sorrel, Curly Dock, and hundreds more! Some gardeners feel that without weeds, gardening would be boring and unchallenging. I have to think about that. Bottom line, beware of the weeds in your garden. Plant them and you may never get rid of them!


About writersandy

Writer, Gardener, Crafter
This entry was posted in Gardening, Habitat Gardening, Invasive plants, Milkweed for Monarchs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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