Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Roadside Weeds

Throughout much of the world, the same species of plant seem to proliferate along the roadside and abandoned lot -- they are typically passed off as "roadside weeds."

Now, while not always glamorous, a number of these species are intriguing, some of which are even beautiful, if not for their habits.  There can be something rather enjoyable about trying to figure out what manner of flowers line a highway, and a certain delight in seeing a familiar bloom, even if a humble one.

For those in Virginia, Virginia Tech has a page that gives a good run down of "weed" species:

I wanted to highlight a few, eight in all, particular species that I often see, and most appreciate.

I begin with Chicory (Cichorium intybus), for who is not familiar with the blue roadside bloom of the lanky Chicory.  They are also interesting in being a coffee substitute.

File:Asclepias syriaca.jpg
Next, the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a rather distintive plant if ever there was one.  The pinkish ball-shaped flower bundle, the round-wide leaves, and the rather milk sap.  The Milkweed is also interesting for the several species of insect that rely exclusively on this plant for food and shelter.  These include the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), the Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophtalmus), Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).

File:Linaria vulgaris.jpg
Recently, my wife located a delightful little weed called either Butter-and-Eggs or Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).  This one falls into the category of what is certainly a weed, but a surprisingly attractive one, nonetheless.

File:Starr 040723-0030 Verbascum thapsus.jpg
Surely most of my readers have, from time to time, noticed the fuzzy biannual, the Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).  Its first year, it remains a flat whorl of fuzzy grey-green leaves.  Its second year, however, it sends up a tall stalk bearing yellow flowers.

File:Solanum carolinense in flower.jpg
This little weed certainly fits the description of rugged -- the Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense).  A member of the Nightshade family bearing spines, it is certainly noxious, though its little flower is endearing!

File:Plantago lanceolata P6200323 箆大葉子、ヘラオオバコ.jpg
For simply being ubiquitous, I must include the English or Buckthorn Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).  There is not much to say about this species, except that perhaps everyone on Earth has seen one.  That, I suppose is an accomplishment in itself!

File:Taraxacum officinale - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-135.jpg
Also in the ubiquitous category, but the favorite of little children who love to scatter their seeds, and of wild food enthusiasts who eat them, is the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

File:Melilotus alba bgiu.jpg
I conclude this entry with the species that dominates the highway near my home right now: White Sweet Clover (Melilotus albus).  It is not the same as the short and familiar White Clover (Trifolium repens) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) of your lawn; this is a lanky, tall, speciman of roadsides.

Live well!

1 comment:

  1. Dandelions are the curse of my yard, especially since my children have the habit you describe (spreading the seeds). Most of those "weed" species actually look very pleasant in these photographs.