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tall growing garden weeds

Tall growing garden weeds

Herb Bennet(colewort, St. Benedicts herb).

Oxalis corniculata var. atropurpurea

7. Lesser Celandine

Here is a guide to the most common garden weeds.

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Red edged leaf, with a upside v, small pink flowers.

Tall growing garden weeds

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is an example of a North American native plant that gained a negative 'weedy' reputation. However, with the renewed interest in the health of pollinators (bees and butterflies) and the challenges they face, this species is finally turning around. Milkweed is now recognized as a desirable species to cultivate in the garden because the benefits it provides to the ecosystem far outweigh its aggressive tendencies. This beautiful perennial plant which features large rounded leaves, spherical clusters of pink flowers, and unique seed 'pods' will spread and colonize an area via its horizontally spreading underground roots. All parts of the plant contain a thick, white, milky sap which can be toxic to animals but provides benefits to the insects which feed on it — the monarch butterfly perhaps being the most famous. The monarch lays its eggs exclusively on Milkweed leaves and when the larvae hatch, they feed on the leaves until they're ready to become a chrysalis and, ultimately, a butterfly. Adult monarchs get energy-rich nectar from the flowers of the plant.

Do weeds harm the garden?

Do you think gardeners are too touchy about weeds — should we be more forgiving?

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Plantain (Plantago major) is a Eurasian-native species which only reproduces via seed and is commonly found in many gardens because it does well in compacted as well as disturbed soils. It was likely one of the first plant species brought to the new world as it is prized for its medicinal and culinary uses. Plantain has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, antibiotic and astringent properties and its leaves are very high in vitamins A, C, K and calcium. Plantain forms a basal rosette of large oval shaped leaves with prominent leaf veins and a taller flower spike containing many small greenish flowers. Although this plant is small in scale (generally reaching 6 inches tall and leaf spread of up to 12 inches) it reproduces on a large scale, with one plant producing up to 20,000 seeds, ensuring its survival and ongoing spread.

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense) sounds like it's native to Canada however, it's actually a descendent from Asia and Europe and should be called 'Creeping Thistle' or 'Field Thistle' in order not to confuse us. This "noxious weed" reproduces by wind-dispersed seed and by a colonizing root system which allows it to form dense patches or monocultures. Canada Thistle is a ruderal species — a species which is first to colonize disturbed land. The spread by an underground network of roots, along with the spiny leaf edges and stems, make this weed difficult to deal with in any situation. Though it's a pest in the garden, this species also plays an important role in the ecosystem. Its purple flowers are visited by a wide variety of insects, the seeds are an important food source for birds like goldfinch and its leaves are used as food by many species of butterflies and moths.

A plant expert answers questions about every gardener’s nemesis

JP: Yes, people are probably too touchy about weeds. Our need for perfection leads to an intolerance of weeds. Some weeds add benefit to our gardens and ecosystems so it's important to be informed and know what to yank and what may be worth leaving alone. That being said, we do need to be careful to not let things get out of control.

What are the best resources for information on weeds?