Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: What is the name of this weed?

 

Three-seed mercury plant

Three-seed mercury plant

A:  Thank you so much for bringing in a sample to the office during the plant clinic session. This is one of those plants where some people call it a weed and others call it a wildflower.  Acalypha virginica, Three-seed mercury plant, is a native annual and we here in Nassau County, Florida will begin to see it popping up in the wooded and wildlife areas in April.  It belongs to the spurge family although it does not always display the white, milky latex fluid in its stems commonly found in other spurge weeds and wildflowers.  The flowers of Three-seed mercury or Virginia copperleaf bloom in June and July but they are very, small and pale red in color – not very showy although some experts will disagree with me.  Three-seed mercury plants grow in partial shade and will not tolerate full, afternoon sun. This wildflower has been located in some wetland areas but I have found it in my yard and you know my landscape is not a wetland!  Three-seed mercury is a food source for large and small mammals as well as water and terrestrial birds. Three-seed mercury is commonly found from Canada to Florida and as far west as California.

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Q: Can you identify this weed for me. I am seeing all over my pastures and open field areas.

Heartwing Sorrel

Heartwing Sorrel

A:  This weed looks very similar to red sorrel which is a perennial. But this is actually a winter annual called heartwing sorrel, Rumex hastatulus.  If you look closely at the seed head you will see the seeds are slightly heart-shaped. Right now it is full of seeds so the best thing to do is mow it and collect the clippings then bag them and throw them away.  If you do it now, the crop of heartwing sorrel should be diminished next year.  This weed is found throughout most of the southern states.  It is edible for humans and great when a few are added to salads but it is somewhat sour which is where it gets its name – sorrel.


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Q: Please identify this weed for me. Thanks.

Hairy bittergrass

Hairy bittergrass

A:  The weed is hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsute, and it typically is a winter annual but it will continue to grow in shaded, moist areas if it is not pulled or controlled.  It produces large numbers of seeds which have a high germination rate.  This, of course, means almost all the seeds become adult plants. It would be nice to have this kind of production rate on our vegetables and flowers!  The basal leaves somewhat resemble parsley and it has a small cluster of white flowers at the top.  Hairy bittercress often comes with contain plants so consider removing any weed from pots before you bring them home. I always return them back to the nursery and tell them I will not pay for plants I do not want! No one every laughs but better to dispose of them at the nursery then let them become a problem in your landscape.  There is another weed, very similar looking to the Hairy bittercress but its leaves are much smaller and it prefers dry soils. Neither weed is a bonus in the landscape.