Weeds, Celebrities ... or Something Else Entirely?


Sherry SmithSeptember has begun. The rains are back. Here on the coast, temperatures are still soaring and the humidity is absolutely spirit-crushing. All that said, fall gardening is upon us. My husband and I have planned our fall garden, and have begun work on clearing out the garden beds and building back up the soil. Plant nerd that I am, I love growing things. I love getting dirty. I love the smell of freshly turned soil. I do not, however, love weeding.

Weeding here means sitting in full sun, completely coated in mosquito repellant (which the vampiric pterodactyls largely ignore), in wet clothes, while sweat pours down your body. If this isn’t pleasant enough, we seem to be quite gifted at growing weeds and I do believe some of ours are rooted all the way down to China. I sometimes get visions of myself on one end and a lady in a conical hat (I want one of those!) on the other end having a grand tug of war. My mind tends to wander while weeding.

While earning my Masters in horticulture, I took various classes on weed science. What I learned is that I have the distinction of being able to say that I happen to be harboring an international celebrity in my garden: Cyperus rotundus, otherwise known as purple nutsedge. This lovely individual is affectionately known as “the world’s worst weed”. On lists of noxious weeds worldwide, it comes in at number 1. Go me! This plant is known as an invasive from more countries than any other plant in the world and is known to infest at least 52 different crops around the world. My crops are among those 52. Hey, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it big! At the time I learned all this, I asked my professor what my odds are of uninviting this international celebrity. He asked how I was treating it. I responded that we hand-pulled our weeds. He cheerfully informed me that in another 15 years, barring new infestations via wind, animals, etc., we should be free. Well, at least it wasn’t hopeless, right?


Cyperus rotundus “Purple nutsedge”

Another of our friends is Oxalis articulate, also known as pink sorrel. Here in Galveston County, we go from spring floods to summer drought to fall rains. After the rains, the pink sorrel appears as if by magic overnight. We have a rock garden in one corner of the front yard in which I grow desert plants such as aloe, dragonfruit and yucca. After a rain, the entire rock garden is full of pink sorrel. We pull out hundreds of them, but the next storm brings thousands more.

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