This page is dedicated to the volunteer plants in the garden. Some will be ones you definitely want to pull and throw out and others could be left to grow—more the gardener’s decision on whether it is a useful plant or a weed.
Black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)
This is a pull and throw plant. It is on the invasive species list as a noxious plant and musts be controlled. Wear gloves when pulling to avoid contact as it may cause a rash. Place all plant material in the black bin for disposal. To learn more about this plant read the fact sheet on the Alberta Invasive Species Council website (abinvasives.ca)
Photo by Mae Campbell.
Black Medick (Medicago lupulina)
Black medick is an annual in the legume/bean Leguminosae) family. Native to Europe and Asia, it can now be found across Canada and is also known by its other names, yellow trefoil, hop clover, or black clover.
Black medick belongs to the same genus as alfalfa and can be mistaken for clover when it is young. Its leaves are compound (made up of two or more discrete oval leaflets), similar to a clover leaf. The plant has a tap root and is low growing with wiry stems that extend flat along the ground reaching up to 76 cm (30 in) wide. Its individual yellow flowers are grouped in a dense spherical flower head about 1 cm (1/2 in) in size. Black medick reproduces only by seed through black pods (hence its name) which drop kidney-shaped seeds from early spring to late autumn. Given the right conditions, a lone plant can produce around 6,000 seeds, which can remain viable for several years. Common in lawns, gardens, pastures, and cultivated fields, it can quickly become invasive. Read more about this plant by visiting the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Weeds: Black medick webpage.
Photo by Jessi-Ann Riddell.
Clover, Alsike (Trifolium hybridum)
Originating in Europe, alsike clover is a semi-erect perennial of the FABACEAE family with inflorescences of flowers with white petals that turn pink as they age. This gives the flower a distinct two toned appearance (white top and pink bottom) which helps to distinguish this plant from red and white clover. The compound leaves contain three, solid green, ovate leaflets that lack the lighter pattern notable on red and white clover leaves. Alsike clover prefers cool, moist
conditions and full sun. It is well adapted to heavy, poorly drained soil and can tolerate occasional flooding. It is often found growing on the side of roads and in ditches. The leaves and flowers of alsike clover are edible for humans but are toxic to horses and other equines.
Gloves should be worn when handling the plant as it can irritate the skin. Cultivation purposes are much the same as red clover, however alsike clover is commonly planted as a mix with other seeds (grass, red clover). It is an important pollinator plant for bees and an excellent source of nutrients for the soil.
Photo by No-longer-here from Pixabay.
Clover, Red (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover is a biennial or short-lived perennial with a semi-erect habit native to Europe, Western Asia, and NW Africa. It is cultivated as a forage crop and for medicinal uses and is a beneficial pollinator plant for bumble bees. While you may not want it growing in your manicured lawn, you might want to keep it in naturalized areas or even grow it instead of grass. It is drought tolerant and will grow in sun or shade and in places where grass will not. It is self-seeded and can spread by rhizomes. A member of the legume (FABACEAE) family, it is a nitrogen fixer and is beneficial to soil health. Red clover can be identified by its compound leaves composed of three oval to oblong leaflets with a lighter green ‘v’ pattern in the center. In late spring to early summer the pink to purplish/pink, round, terminal inflorescences help to distinguish red clover from other clover species.
Photo by Couleur from Pixabay.
Clover, White (Trifolium repens)
White clover is a creeping perennial growing four inches tall with a 12 inch spread. It will spread aggressively on creeping stems which form roots at the nodes. Unless it is being used as a ground cover or lawn replacement it should be kept in check. Flowers bloom in late spring. The round inflorescence is composed of 20-100 white flowers that fade to light pink with age. The three leaflets have a white crescent marking on their upper side. White clover is native to
Europe, North Africa, and Asia but is now naturalized throughout the world. Like red clover it is cultivated as a forage crop for animals, as cover crop, or green manure. In the garden, because it will grow where grass will not, white clover is often used as a companion plant or substitute for grass. It prefers moist soils in light shade but is resilient and will grow in full sun and dryer soils. It provides important nutrients to the soil and is a food source for pollinators, livestock and
Photo by Emilian Robert Vicol from Pixabay.
Common plantain (Plantago major)
Common plantain is a non-native plant that thrives in compacted soils along footpaths and road margins. It tolerates mowing. It was brought to North America from Europe where it is native and has traditionally been used in folk remedies. Because it can tolerate trampling and soil compaction, it has an important role in breaking apart hard-packed soils, while holding the soil in place to prevent erosion.
This may be a case of right plant, right place. If you have the right place, maybe it can stay? Read more about this plant by visiting the Canadian Wildlife Federation site for edible wild and not so wild plants.
Photo by Deborah Maier.
Foxtail barley (Hordeum Jubatum)
Native to North America, foxtail barley is a drought-tolerant perennial plant species in the grass (Poaceae) family.
Known for its resilience to high salinity, it grows in dense bunches from a mass of fibrous roots and reaches about 60 cm (2 ft) tall. Each 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long nodding flower spike sits atop a tubular hollow stem typical of grasses. On display from late spring until midsummer, the spikes are green, tinged with pale pink and purple, and then fade to light tan as they mature. The long silky tails are said to resemble the tails of red foxes. While they are considered a weed, the young flower spikes are soft and attractive as they wave gently in the breeze.
Foxtail barley reproduces only by seeds and is a prolific seed producer. The seeds can be carried a great distance by the wind and have sharp, backwards pointing barbs which can cause sores in the nose, mouth, and eyes of pets and livestock. Read more about this plant by visiting the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Photo by Jessi-Ann Riddell.
Showy Locoweed (Oxytropis splendens)
Showy locoweed is a drought-tolerant native plant. Around June, it will start to bloom. It has pretty purple/pink bonnet-shaped flowers common to members of the pea (Fabaceae) family.
It is available for purchase from nurseries specializing in native plants and is considered a good plant to use when xeriscaping or creating an alpine garden—could be a keeper!
For more information on this plant, visit the E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (The interactive map shows North American specimen data collection sites)
Photo by Mae Campbell.