Tag Archives: weed

Horseweed Conyza canadensis

So many of the plants we regard as weeds came from Europe along with the colonists and their seeds and livestock. This weed is a native American variety. Call it horseweed, mare’s tail or hogweed, it’s tall and prolific.

Very small flowers are easier to show in pairs so the front and side views are in the same picture.

Conyza canadensis Cronquist

June to November                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

Horseweed flower

Flower: The many-branched flower panicle can be 18 inches tall and spread out over 6 inches with a flame shape. Each flower is cylindrical. The half inch long cylinder is made up of dark green, overlapping bracts. From 25 to 45 white ray flowers radiate out an eighth of an inch around the top of the cylinder surrounding numerous tube flowers.

Horseweed leaf

Leaf: Alternate leaves can be so dense as to appear whorled. Each leaf is 2 – 3 1/2 inches long but less than 1/2 inch wide. There is a midvein and thick edges. White hairs stick out along the edges. Top and bottom are dark green.

Horseweed under leaf

Stem: The single stem can reach 7 feet. It is light green with white hairs. It is stiff.

Horseweed stem

Root: The annual root is a short taproot with fibrous roots.

Horseweed seeds

Fruit: The seeds are an eighth of an inch long and thin with short, white threads sticking out one end.

Habitat: This plant prefers full sun and disturbed areas such as roadsides and barnyards.



Canada Fleabane, Hogweed, Mare’s Tail

Horseweed plant

Horseweed is a native weedy species. It produces hundreds of seeds which are wind disseminated. The plants often come up in dense stands.

The young stem growing up can be mistaken for a goldenrod. Once the flower stalks appear, horseweed is unmistakable.

In poor areas horseweed can be short, only a couple of feet tall. In better soils and with enough rain, the stems can reach seven feet with massive flower heads. If you can overlook the facts that few animals other than insects eat these plants and their sheer numbers can make them a nuisance, the tall, flowering plants are impressive.

The plants seem to prefer growing along fence lines or near sheds. They can grow in shade but do best in full sun.

Wind can make a group of horseweeds seem to ripple as the stems dip down and stand back up. The stiff stems can take a lot of wind without being uprooted. It takes pressure to snap the stems.

Each plant matures, flowers, seeds and dies over a few months. New plants replace the older ones to keep the blooming time so long. The leaves yellow and drop off from the bottoms of the stems as seed heads replace the flowers until only the stalk is left devoid of flowers, leaves and seeds.

For the serious amateur botanist, check out the book The Syrian Milkweed to find out more about how plants get their names and how the process can make mistakes.

Common Mallow Malva neglecta

At first Common Mallow plants were few in number. The flowers are pretty. It was in out of the way places. That has changed. Ten years later this plant is taking over the chicken yard, expanding into the goat barn lot and covering a wide swath of ground in front of these places. It tried to take over my garden but diligent weeding has reduced it to occasional.

The flowers are still pretty. I still enjoy seeing them. The seed pods are interesting. The plants are ruthlessly mowed.

Malva neglecta Wallr.

April to October                                           I                                   Family: Malvaceae

common mallow flower

Flower: Hairy flower stalks grow from the leaf nodes and end in one to three flowers. Each flower has five hairy, pointed sepals. There are five white to light pink to lavender petals with dark pink veins. The flowers have an open bell shape.

Common Mallow side flower

Leaf: The alternate, green leaves have long, hairy petioles. Each leaf has several veins radiating out from the petiole into the five to seven shallow lobes of the leaf. The leaf appears almost circular but has two definite sides that overlap. The edges are toothed. The teeth and lobes give the leaf a scalloped look. The edges can have jagged waves.

Common Mallow leaf

Stem: Several stems come from the root. The green stems branch. They are hairy.

Common Mallow under leaf

Root: The taproot is fleshy, can fork or have fleshy side roots. It can be annual or perennial.

Common Mallow stem

Fruit: The seeds are arranged in a single circle inside a flattened round seed pod that resembles a wheel of cheese.

Common Mallow fruit

Habitat: This plant grows almost anywhere. It seems to prefer disturbed sunny areas.

Edibility: The leaves, young stems and flowers are edible raw or cooked. The seeds are edible but their small size makes gathering them tedious.

Common Mallow

Cheeses, Cheeseweed

Common Mallow plant

Common Mallow came from Europe. It spreads rapidly from seed. The plant grows, flowers and sets seed quickly. The seeds can sprout at any time of the year.

The Malvaceae family is the mallow family giving this plant its common name. The name referring to cheese is from the shape of the seed pod. It looks like a wheel of cheese. Cheese weed is from its growth habits.

The leaves and flowers resemble those of the garden variety of geranium. The plant can be a foot tall but sprawls across the ground. Its stems can be two feet long.

Common Mallow is considered edible. The leaves produce a mucilage so adding a few to soup can thicken the soup. As with the mucilage from okra, not everyone likes the texture. The young leaves, sprouts and flowers can be added to salad or cooked as greens.

An emerging sprout puts down a taproot. This can grow to a foot long. It is thick and difficult to pull out. The root can be eaten.

This plant is often considered a weed. It spreads so rapidly and spreads out to cover an area, the ground is covered with it. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate. Mowing makes it into a low ground cover still blooming and setting seed.

The plant is an alternate host for hollyhock rust.

Fireweed Erechtites hieracifolius

Erechtites hieracifolius Raf.

July to November                                        N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Senecioneae

fireweed flower

Flower: The tube flowers sitting on a central disk are encased by long bracts. These bracts are green, often bulge over the central disk and look like a wall slightly twisted from bottom to top. The top of the bracts flares slightly as the tube flowers open. Their petals are white to light pink but barely stick out over the bracts. The styles extend themselves over the bracts.

fireweed leaf

Leaf: The leaves begin as a rosette then are alternate on the stem getting smaller the higher up the stem they occur. The leaves have numerous toothed lobes with more sharply pointed teeth between the lobes. The upper surface usually has no hairs. The under surface has scattered short hairs especially along the prominent midvein and smaller side veins. The under surface is lighter green than the upper.

fireweed under leaf

Stem: A single strong stem can reach nine feet but is usually much shorter. There are no branches until the flower stalks go off toward the top. The stem has longitudinal grooves but no hairs. It is green but can have a few red streaks.

fireweed stem

Root: This annual has a taproot.

Fruit: The long ovate seed is attached to the central disk. The other end has a tuft of white hairs that flares out to better catch the wind.

fireweed seeds

Habitat: This plant likes open areas especially disturbed ones. It can appear in openings in the woods or more commonly along streams or rivers and along roads.


fireweed plant

The secret to Fireweed’s success is how fast it grows and colonizes an area. It does not compete well with other plants.

Fireweed is one of the first plants to grow in a burned over area or the gravel and mud left behind by high water along a river. This is where the name came from.

The stem streaks upward and puts out masses of flower heads. Even as new tube flowers open up old ones are making seeds. It is common to see all stages from developing flower heads to blooming ones to newly closed ones to puff balls of seeds on the same plant.

In spite of the vast numbers, hundreds to thousands of seeds a plant produces, most will end up as bird food or land in places unsuitable for the plant. I find it most commonly along the gravel bars of a river or along the edge of the gravel road where few other plants can grow.