Tag Archives: garden weed

Pokeweed Thickets

When spring warms up, pokeweed sticks up its first shoots. This is considered a wild green.

The shoots should be gathered when six to eight inches tall. They are bitter in taste so parboiling them is a good idea.

Parboiling is putting the shoots in water, bringing it to a boil, then draining the water. The half cooked shoots can then be used in other ways.

Frying the shoots is popular. I prefer to boil them. That way they end up with a taste and feel similar to asparagus.

pokeweed plant
Pokeweed has a big tap root with multiple stems growing up. The stems are red, up to 2 inches wide and hollow. They branch at the top with these covered with large leaves and streamers first of flowers, then with berries.

The time for gathering pokeweed shoots is long past in August. The plant is now a tall, leggy plant with thick red stems. The stems branch giving the tops a wide spread.

Flower streamers hung down for a short time. The flowers are small, white and waxy in appearance. Berries have replaced the flowers.

The berries start out green, but mature to red purple. They are juicy. The juice was used as ink in pioneer days. The berries are poisonous to us.

Pokeweed was an unfamiliar plant when I moved to the Ozarks. That first year I saw my goats urinating this red stream and panicked. The panic passed and I found them happily eating pokeberries.

pokeweed berries hang in clusters
A pokeweed berry begins to grow almost before the flower is done blooming. The top flowers bloom first so the berries form and ripen from the top of the cluster down. They are full of a red juice that stains the hands.

One thing about this plant: it seeds prolifically. Birds spread the seeds all over including lawns and gardens. The lawn mower takes care of those seedlings.

I was teaching and my garden was very neglected. Pokeweed takes advantage of such opportunities. It moved in.

My garden sprouted a pokeweed thicket. It survived two or three years getting bigger each year.

I wanted to reclaim my garden and attacked the thicket making an unwelcome discovery as I snapped a spade handle trying to pry one plant out. This plant puts down a big – really big – taproot. A couple were close to a foot across and two feet long with several large side roots going off.

Each plant required time consuming excavation. New plants are now pulled as soon as they are spotted.

Pokeweed is on the march here again. A thicket has sprung up near the composting manure pile. Several plants are scattered around the workshop and garden areas.

I am out with my loppers for large plants. My garden is checked often. And the birds are feasting out in the pasture.

Common Purslane Weedy Pest

Common purslane aka pusley aka pursley is a gardener’s nightmare – maybe. It has been used as a wild green and a medicinal plant historically. It is cultivated in the Middle East as animal fodder.

No one knows where puslane came from. Perhaps it came with the colonists. Yet its seeds are found in ancient archaeological sites in North America. Purslane doesn’t care. It lives anywhere it can internationally.

common purslane plant

This pot got overlooked in the spring. Common purslane doesn’t mind. It happily filled the pot with stems, leaves and flowers.

The plant seems to prefer gardens and flower pots around my home. That may be because it is more noticeable there.

Common purslane looks like a succulent with its thick stems. The leaves aren’t thick, yet give the impression they are. They have  broad, blunt tips.

Moss roses or Portulaca is a cultivated relative known for its beautiful flowers. Purslane flowers are similar, but much smaller and only in yellow. They bloom early in the morning, vanishing by noon.

common purslane leaf

Common purslane leaves are thicker than many other kinds of leaves, but not as thick as succulent leaves usually are. They have shiny surfaces covered with minute waxy spots.

The leaves fold up by evening in hot weather. Even the plant seems to fold up to sleep through the night.

There are so many kinds of weeds in my garden, common purslane may have grown there for years. It got pulled, tossed in the wheelbarrow and rolled away with the others.

common purslane stems

Common purslane stems are thick with a waxy look to them. They can turn mostly dull red.

Last year a plant got overlooked. It grew big and luxurious for a purslane. This means it sprawled out over the garden path with foot long stems. These were nearly half an inch thick, glossy reddish green.

I noticed it. I took the usual group of pictures except for flowers. Since I usually work in the garden in late afternoon, the flowers were long gone. That made identification difficult, but not impossible in this case.

common purslane flower

I suspect the common purslane flowers open more than this, if I spot them earlier than after milking is done. They may open at night and start closing in the morning.

This year I’m taking a few minutes to see the flowers. I haven’t nibbled on any yet. I’m thinking I will double check about the edibility of common purslane beforehand.

I may check out a stem or two with the goats. Weeds are much better nutritionally than the usual pasture grasses. Purslane may spread itself generously earning the name of weedy pest, but we may be condemning it unjustly.