Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Smart, but not smart enough

"It's called smartweed," John Carroll told me one day while I was helping him maintain one of the flower beds he had planted in the old Minton Stable Garden.  It earned that name, he explained, because it is smart enough to take on the appearance of a flower that one might grow on purpose.  With its greenish-pink brush-like flowers and long tapered leaves, it does seem too attractive to pull, especially when it adds some color to a fading fall garden.

But don't be fooled.  It may not strangle plant stems like bindweed does, but smartweed can still be invasive.  Known by its scientific name of polygonum hydropiper, there are two main types of smartweed: aquatic and terrestrial.  I've been encountering the terrestrial smartweed not only in my MSG plot, but also in my gardens at home, as you can see in a neglected flower bed next to my house (perhaps posting this photo will shame me into leaving my perch at the Ula Cafe to go home and weed, now that the rain has cleared).  

I could place a plastic bag over the smartweed before pulling it; that would greatly reduce the possible spreading of some of the 3000 seeds or more that the plant produces.  But I could also harvest it for medicinal purposes, to treat a variety of illnesses from common colds to cholera. 

I doubt that I will take either of these measures.  As I do every year, I'll just pull the smartweed out by the roots and admire its pretty pink flowers as I chuck them in with the other yard waste. 


Dan said...

After seeing the image you have up I thought it looked kind of familiar. I looked it up in my plant book and found out why it looks so familiar. I grow Polygonum virginianum which is in the same family, not as invasive and has beautiful foliage as well as a similar flower. I also grow Polygonum affine which very closely resembles the weed, it forms a thick ground cover and is not really invasive at all.

I also read that it is in the buckwheat family, interesting.

I'll add you to my blog links, thanks for stopping by my blog so in turn I could find yours.

Sally said...

I'll have to look up those varieties. This plant family reminds me of loosestrife in that some varieties are invasive while others are a beautiful yet controllable option for a flower garden.

Thanks for adding my blog and for your comment.