What’s That Weed?
(And That One? And That One?!?)

The longer I garden, the more impressed I am with weeds. They sure have figured out a lot of ways to travel around, to outsmart anyone who tries to get rid of them, and to spread their progeny far and wide.

That’s one reason I’ve been trying to get to know my weeds better this year. The more pressing reason, though, is that last year I grew some self-sowing flowers that were new to me (two favorites: green Nicotiana langsdorfii and towering kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate) and this spring when I started weeding I realized I wasn’t always sure which sprouts were weeds and which were volunteers from my new self-sowers.

Searching online I found a booklet titled Common Weed Seedlings of the North Central States with photos and descriptions of over 50 of them. Eureka! Even if you live somewhere else, there’s a good chance you’ll find this guide helpful since weeds tend to be highly adaptable and widespread. You can buy a print copy here or view the entire booklet online here.

Another site I’ve been turning to frequently is the New Jersey Weed Gallery – even though New Jersey is 600 miles away. The main page looks like a wall of “wanted” posters, and it’s easy to scroll down it till you find what you’re looking for – or get sidetracked by something else you recognize. The names are entertaining, too: smartweed (aren’t they all?), shepherd’s purse, mouse-eared chickweed, and two that seem made for a romance novel – redstem filaree (pictured here) and hairy galinsoga.

For these and other weed-identification resources – including the 174-weed University of California Weed Photo Gallery and the 656-page Weeds of North America – see Margaret Roach’s “What Weed is It? Putting Names to Pesky Plants” at her endlessly helpful blog, A Way to Garden.

And happy weeding!