Weeds

It’s a season of overlap in the yard now. The beginnings of things wanted and unwanted come up together in the woods and need to be sorted out. Garlic mustard, low to the ground and hard to pull, mingles with the much-desired nepeta. Tiarella hides under mystery weeds. Forsythia throws its yellow arms across a mess of nettles.

This year there’s an added layer of confusion due to our huge windstorm: the remains of the broken tree, sawed randomly by Edison to get it off the wire, were dropped in tangled chunks onto what was then a lot of dead mulchy leaves. But soon that spot will be an arena for ferns and lilies-of-the-valley to fight their way through skunk cabbage and motherwort. I want very much to weigh in on the fern and lily side of that argument, but the interlaced arms and fingers of the fallen treetop are really going to be in my way.

I didn’t know the name of the weed called motherwort until about half an hour ago. It wasn’t something I had to deal with in my Pasadena garden, and though I’ve learned a few names – garlic mustard, stinging nettle – from the common complaints of other gardeners here, this plant was still anonymous to me. So, what was it?

It turns out when you google “Michigan weed finder” you get a list of marijuana dispensaries in the state. But, like a true weed, I persevered, and “noxious” weed finder did the trick. Some of the finders supplied were pretty useless – the latin name? If I knew the latin name, would I be searching through the traits in your plant finder? It seemed hopeless until I remembered it had a square stem, so it was probably some kind of mint. After a brief detour through money management and the history of coinage, there it was, mystery solved: motherwort. Sounds vaguely insulting. It’s said to have medicinal properties. If anyone would like to gather several dozen bushels of it for their health, please let me know.

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