01 June 2009

a new weed

B and I were at a party on Saturday afternoon for the benefit of the Agricultural Stewardship Association, whose mission is to preserve farmland for farming in Washington County. It’s a great organization.

A fact I didn’t know: Washington County, New York, has the about the same size population now as it did 150 years ago: 60,000 today vs. 55,000 then. I learned that from the charming and kind Seth Jacobs, a local organic farmer and the president of ASA.

At the tail-end of the party, I also learned about a new weed: Aegopodium podagraria. Yikes! One of the hosts of the party was showing me his garden, and we lingered for a moment on the side of the house to look at his “Butterflies” magnolia, which, like mine, has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous late frosts. He was apologizing, as we all do, about the weeding that needed to be done and then pointed out one weed in particular that is giving him a big headache: “This is bishop’s weed. It’s taking over, and it’s ridiculously difficult to get rid of.”

The weed toward which he gestured is a plant I noticed in my garden under the lilacs last spring. I had never seen it before, and I remember wondering whether it was a weed or a purchase I forgot I made. The leaves were pretty, almost like Anemone tomentosa “Robustissima,” (which I had planted in the area) but the plant was much more vigorous, and it was in a nice thick clump that seemed to be contained by the Brunnera macrophylla “Langtrees” surrounding it. I pulled a few stems up, tried to identify it online and couldn’t, so left it for another day.

And now some new knowledge! Plant becomes weed! When I noticed gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) coming up everywhere in the perennial garden a few years back, I spent a few hours eradicating it from the bed, figuring it was one invasive headache I didn’t need to have. I spent yesterday morning digging up the part of the garden where bishop’s weed seems to have taken hold. I sifted the dirt for broken roots (they’re thin and brittle, much more difficult to extract whole than those of gooseneck loosestrife, which peel away from the ground like yarn from a ball), and did a survey of the rest of the garden to make certain I didn’t see any more. I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be engaged in this battle for the rest of the summer or longer.

I can’t figure out where it came from, though! If geography is any clue, it came in with an astilbe or with a flat of foxglove I planted last spring. Or, most likely, with some Asarum canadense I bought from a wildflower nursery last year.

Glad to have it pointed out to me!

Here’s an informative post about the plant from a woman in the Battenkill Valley (right next door to where we live). She is not optimistic about ever getting rid of her bishop’s weed.

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