Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Weeds

Before the snow came I had taken these photos of winter weeds to share with everyone.

Burdock in the family Asteraceae.

This year I have been intrigued by this plant and have tons of photos in sepia and black and white. I found a big stand of them along my favorite trail. The prickly heads called burrs are famous for their ability to catch on clothing and pet fur. They can cause intestinal problems if your pets ingest them in an attempt to get them off their paws.

What I learned recently is that young burdock can be eaten as a root vegetable. It is used in several Asian dishes. The young flower stalks can also be eaten before the flowers emerge and I read that they taste like artichoke. If you try some let me know what you think.

Like a lot of our weeds they have medicinal uses. The oil form the root can be used as an application to the scalp to treat dandruff and delay hair loss. Gives a new meaning to the popular burr hair cut doesn’t it?

Teasel is a member of the family Dipsacaceae.

The genus name came from the word for thirst referring to the shape of the leaves around the stem when they first emerge. This cup-like shape collects water.

When I think of weeds and Christmas it is the teasel that I remember most. My mother would spray paint them gold and add them to our holiday wreath along with pinecones, and nuts. I have even seen them made into ornaments in the shapes of people and animals.

They are a good winter source of seed for finches. You might have noticed Goldfinch sitting atop this tall plant. A single plant produces 2,000 seeds. The taproot may go down as far as 2 feet below the surface. The first year of the plants life all you see is the basal rosette and then the next year the stalk grows and flowers and dies making it a monocarpic perennial.

Thistle is the name for a group of plants with sharp prickles in the family Asteraceae. I mostly associate it with this plant. Those prickles are the plants way of keeping deer and other plant eating animal’s form snacking on them. It would certainly discourage me. After taking these photos I had several attached to me.

You can see the thistledown in this photo. The seeds are carried off by the wind much like a Milkweed seed. If you feed birds I am sure you are familiar with these seeds that finches practically crave.

This winter when you see these weeds along the roadside or in fields remember how valuable they are to wildlife and how much fun they can be. Cut a few for an arrangement and enjoy their unique structures.

Merry Christmas and thank you all who participate in ABC Wednesday.


Manang Kim said...

Oh wow I didn't know that these weeds can be eaten just like dandelion people hate them but I don't. Thanks for the great info!

ABC Wednesday~WWII

Tumblewords: said...

Beautiful photos and fascinating information! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Anonymous said...

The teasels are also quite attractive when in bloom. The seed head is pale green with a few rows of small pale lavender flowers growing in a circle.

Since animals don't eat burdock the plants are often seen in poor pasture where the seed pods get entangled in horses manes and tails. Deer seem to be able to dislodge them easier because of the short fur.

Roger Owen Green said...

I have a strong recollection of getting caught in a burdock bush as a kid - it wasn't winter - and having to spend 15 minutes pulling them off my clothes.

MyMaracas said...

It's a pleasure to find someone else who appreciates "weeds". I find them so much more interesting than the glamorous, tame, hot-house plants.

I didn't know burdock was edible. I'll have to try some next year.

Dragonstar said...

Great informative post. My favourite "pop" (soda water, mineral water) when I was young was Dandelion and Burdock - dark brown and rich-tasting.

I'm sorry to be so late visiting, and I didn't manage a post of my own. But I'd like to thank you on behalf of the ABC Team.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Ooo - my grandmother used to spraypaint teasels gold, too, and make little trees out of them by sticking them into a styrofoam cone, about a foot tall. Then she'd attach other little things, like little velvet bows, wooden Santas and angels, etc.

I was thrilled to add teasels to my garden a couple years ago, but then found out that up here they are considered invasives! Even though they are native plants. Grrr. So, every year I cut off the heads so the seeds don't spread - I'd rather leave them for the birds, though.

Burdock is also noted as a blood-purifier. Not really sure what that means, but we made a tincture out of it in an herb class I took many years ago.

squirrel said...

Thank you all for your interesting comments that added a lot to this blog. I felt like made this blog together.
Have a prosperous New Year. Squirrel