Weeds… what is a weed? I believe a weed is a plant where you don’t want it.
What is an invasive plant? It is a weed that’s out of control… it has been named by the state to be something that needs to be eradicated. It is also usually illegal to sell these plant.
A lot of weeds escaped our gardens. A good example of an escapee is the dandelion. This plant was once planted for food… and now it’s back. The weed many people spray their lawns to kill is now sold as a gourmet salad green. I saw it in the store for $6.99 a bunch. This just makes me realize I have hundreds of dollars in greens growing on the prairie paths, in my lawn, and in my vegetable garden. Dandelions are not one of the weeds we worry about getting rid of as part of our prairie restoration. Dandelions do not compete well with prairie plants. There are other plants, however, that we are doing battle with. These are white sweet clover, wild parsnip and thistle. On our property we have also been battling crown vetch.
When you look at crown vetch flowers up close they are beautiful, but when you know what a problem crown vetch is it loses its beauty. When I see fields of crown vetch, while driving down the road, it just reminds me of the huge problem it is. The seed bank is there for years, it crowds out and shades all the other plants near it, and just simply runs amuck.
Wild parsnip is one that we have had some success fighting. John has rid much of the prairie of it and the rest of the property is mowed before seed set to help control it. If you hand cut this plant you should be careful as it it phototoxic. If you get sap from wild parsnip on your skin and then expose it to sunlight you will get a chemical burn. There is just nothing beautiful about this plant… especially when you see fields of it.
Thistle is another weed we have gone to battle against. I used to love seeing the pink thistle heads… and still think they are rather pretty. But they have lost some of that beauty after having spent weekends neck deep in huge patches of thistle cutting it down. We have had great success ridding the prairie of these large patches and now we just pull the occasional thistle that pops up.
Other weeds that pop up in the prairie are still under evaluation. Things such as the oxeye daisy and bird-foot trefoil are out of place in the prairie, but we have not gone after them. They have not been that pushy and so have been allowed to exist in the pairie. We also are not doing anything to help it along. If these plants are killed the next time we burn they will not be missed… it will just be part of the course of using fire to maintain the prairie and its natural plant life.
Plants like the day lily I still feel are beautiful, but I have not had to do battle with it. Maybe that is why I can still appreciate it despite the huge field of flowers it is capable of developing into.
There are relatively few goat’s beards that crop up in the prairie and therefore it is a plant we have not gone after. It’s also one that I love to take photos of. The large seed heads are almost as large as my fist.
Queen Anne’s lace is a lovely plant when one or two crop up… it does, however, have the ability to develop into a field of nothing but Queen Anne’s lace. This may be the next plant we go after now that we have gotten the white sweet clover, thistle, and wild parsnip under control in the prairie. We will not go after it everywhere, but will try to rid the prairie of most of it.
Prairies are about a diversity of plants and animal life. Any plant that is so dominant that it pushes everything else out… especially if it’s not native, needs to go.
There are people out there who are purists and feel all non-natives need to be removed, but we are just going on the option that if it’s not a problem we will leave it and hopefully the health prairie will push out the intruders via competition. It worked with the mustard plant and hopefully as we nurture the prairie it will work with some of the other less invasive weeds.