A Study In Coppertop Weeds

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Veggies, fruits, and flowers certainly aren’t the only members of the Kingdom Plantae  that grow well at Coppertop. I’m working on a complete list of all weeds I find and identify along with photos ALL taken here at home. Hubby thinks I’ve lost my marbles among the weeds, but I insist I’m just getting a jump on the weed segment of my Master Gardener training. 😉

The variety among weeds is amazing, and their fortitude is also fascinating! Weeds I’m noting all thrive in the Pacific Northwest, although not all are natives. Identifying the undesirables somehow makes it even more satisfying to oust them. Their removal is easiest when they are young, of course. For efficient control it’s important to understand each weed’s life cycle — how they reproduce and if they’re annual, perennial, or biennial.

All gardeners know that it’s impossible to eliminate weeds completely, so especially for those of us who refrain from herbicide use, it’s essential to make peace with the weeding process, embracing the time spent in God’s beautiful creation with hands in the dirt. Just like we can’t brush once and keep our teeth clean forever, so it is with weeds in the garden; continual upkeep is imperative.

This post is a work in progress, one I’ll add photos to as weeds come into flower and reveal themselves during the growing season.  I welcome feedback and helpful corrections.


Dandelion /  Taraxacum officinale:  I’m okay with having to live with some in the grassy areas, since there are just too many to eradicate and I don’t use herbicides, but I dig up these perennials in beds and borders. Deep, brittle taproots stay in and grow until completely dug out. Forms self-pollinated seeds in puffy white balls that kids and wind like to blow around. Each flower bears 125-300 seeds.


Purple Deadnettle /  Lamium purpureum: Mentioned in a 2014 post. Seed-producing annuals from the mint family, Lamiaceae (square stem), that are thought to resemble nettles but don’t sting and are therefore “dead nettles.”


Shotweed  /  Cardamine hirsuta:  A winter annual weed from the mustard family, Brassicaceae. Also known as land cress, spring cress, flickweed, or hairy bittercress.  It should be pulled or hoed before it blooms because if the matured flowers and seed heads are disturbed, they shoot a cloud of seeds up into your eyeballs. Hate that.


Stinky Bob or Herb Robert /  Geranium robertianum: Pink stems and almost above-ground roots that are, thankfully, very easy to pull. After pink flowers, seeds form that can shoot 15-20 feet when disturbed. Mentioned in a 2014 post.


Creeping Buttercup / Ranunculus repens: Yellow flowers in summer and perennial from fibrous roots with stems rooting at the nodes. Has thoroughly invaded the test garden area and Lupine Hill. We’ll have to tolerate some in areas of the lawn, but I spend hunks of time digging them from beds.


Common Mullein / Verbascum thapsus: Attractive when young (the soft-leaved plant below), and a little hard to distinguish from perennial cornflower and digitalis purpurea when young, which are also pretty weedy, so I just pull. Biennial with rosette first year and yellow stalky flowers/seeds the second.


Field Veronica or Corn Speedwell / Veronica arvensis: Annual weed with fibrous roots. Spreads by seeds.


Broad-Leaved Dock / Rumex obtusifolium: Tap root on this perennial weed can grow over 36″. What a beast! Thrives in moist environments (Coppertop in general). Seeds from flowers can lie dormant for years.


Common Chickweed / Stellaria media: Annual that reproduces by seeds and by stems rooting at the nodes.


Red Sorrel or Sheep Sorrel /  Rumex acetosella: Perennial weed that spreads by creeping rhizomes from hell.


Canada Thistle or Creeping Thistle /  Cirsium arvense: Thick leather gloves required! Another perennial. We haven’t allowed these to progress into their purple thistle flowering stage. Most plant spread is by lateral root growth (up to 17 feet spread) and new shoots from root buds –and their roots may grow 20 feet deep!


Common Vetch / Vicia sativa: An annual weed from the legume family, Fabaceae. I have to stay on top of these in early spring in the round perennial bed or they form a blanket over other plants and try to creep up the dogwood and rose bush. Flowers, like all Fabaceae, become seedpods. Often grown as cover crop for its nitrogen-fixing properties and also as fodder for livestock.


Cat’s Ear or Flatweed /  Hypochaeris radicata: A perennial that resembles dandelion, even with its yellow flowers, but has flatter and fuzzier leaves. Yellow flowers on thin, non-hollow stems produce white seed balls resembling dandelion.


White Clover / Trifolium repens: Perennial weed from Fabaceae family. Spreads by seed and creeping stolons. Benefits include nitrogen-fixing properties and use for forage and cover crops.


Mouse-ear Chickweed  / Cerastium vulgatum: A cool season perennial weed that thrives in moist locations. Reproduces by creeping stems and seeds.


Hairy Willowherb (possibly Rosebay Willowherb) / Epilobium hirsutum: Perennial weed with reddish coloration and narrow, spiraling leaves, producing up to 80,000 downy seeds! Once established, the plants also spread by underground roots, one plant eventually forming a large patch.


Common Plantain / Plantago major: Perennial weeds common as the earliest seedlings in our veggie garden and in the gravel surrounding the perennial beds. Forms rosette of waxy, ribbed, oval leaves that hug the ground. Reproduces by seed and is somewhat difficult to pull, with fibrous roots.


Stinging Nettle /  Urtica dioica: I wrote about these dreadful perennial nettles back in 2014. They show up from March to September, and recently they have shown themselves in my raspberry hedge along the soaker hose. They spread by rhizomes and seed, and young plants have a purple hue. Leather gloves and protective clothing required!


Hedge Woundwort, Hedge Nettle, or Deadnettle / Stachys silvatica:  This perennial  weed spreads by underground rhizomes and mimics the look of nettles, although is more velvety and doesn’t sting. It crops up in a couple of perennial beds here, and I identify it by an unpleasant odor when pulled or crushed. I don’t let it go to flower (although I did our first year here), but its upright flower is a pretty purple, similar to stinging nettles.  Like all Lamiaceae, it has a square stem.

Horsetails / Equisetum arvense: Perennials spread from rhizomes. Grows along our stream and edge of the pond.


Reed Canary Grass / Phalaris arundinacea:  Grows outside lower fence, along stream, and in one corner of veggie garden. A perennial bunchgrass.


Wall Lettuce / Mycelis muralis: So far I’ve found just one specimen of this annual weed.


Catchweed or Cleavers or Stickyweed / Galium aparine: Annual weeds with long stems that attach to anything passing by.


Nipplewort  / Lapsana Communis: Usually an annual and reproduces by seeds from yellow flowers.


Field Bindweed / Convolvulus arvensis: Grows in the veggie garden up the bean poles in the summer.

Purslane / Portulaca oleracea: A trailing weed that’s easy to identify by its plump glossy leaves and red stems. This summer annual succulent weed is nutritious! Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/power-packed-purslane-zmaz05amzsel.aspx

Creeping Woodsorrel / Oxalis corniculata: Perennial that reproduces by stolons and seeds from yellow flowers.

Wood Avens also called Herb Bennett /Geum Urbanum

Clary Sage / Salvia sclarea

Black Medic / Medicago lupulina

Various Grassy Weeds


Oxeye Daisy / Leucanthemum vulgare:  These are lovely on the hill above the driveway in June bloom and in my neighbor’s horse pasture. When I find clumps in other areas of the garden, I usually dig them.




Tansy or Bitter Buttons / Tanacetum vulgare  and T. vulgar crispum:  Mentioned in a 2015 post.


Fringecup / Tellima grandiflora:  Fragrant! Perennial member of the Saxifrage family, like heucheras and astilbes. Classified as a wildflower. Large patches return in moist areas, including along stream and at north corner of house. Many in wooded area as well.


Yarrow / Achillea millefolium: This perennial was cultivated by the previous homeowners, and we are stuck with it. We enjoy the varieties of its colors mixed with other perennials on Lupine Hill, but I pretty much pull it out everywhere else it appears. Spreads by rhizomes and seeds borne on inflorescences.



Common Foxglove / Digitalis purpurea: A lovely but poisonous biennial that grows in the wild in our area and spreads easily, favoring our acidic soil. I also grow cultivated forms of these.



8 thoughts on “A Study In Coppertop Weeds

  1. March, this is very helpful. Thanks to your photos, I can finally identify those uninvited guests in my yard. I, too, have an abundance of deadnettle, shotweed (positively everywhere), common mullein (a new arrival, and I’m glad to know I can send it packing), field veronica, common chickweed (though some people eat this), red sorrel (grrrrr, how I detest this one), Canada thistle (poor Canada, why does it get blamed for this weed?), flatweed. I also have crabgrass, which is easy enough to pull out once you’ve spotted it, although it likes to root very close to other flowers and herbs, so you have to be right on target or you eradicate something desirable. I’m going to look for pictures of the other weeds you list, because I probably have some here as well. By the way, stinging nettle is very healthy to eat – the Italians used it for a filling for ravioli (ravioli all’ortica). I keep hoping to find some in my yard.


    • I’m not surprised that we have many weeds in common! I know that some people cook and eat nettle, but the idea of harvesting it is beyond daunting. Oh,it burns my skin from any contact! Don’t wish that on yourself. This week’s fight here has been mainly against creeping buttercup which we allowed to spread. Now we’re paying for it.


      • The Italians wear gloves when harvesting stinging nettle and they pick only the top, tenderest leaves. I know how it stings, I used to literally run into it often when I was a child in Germany.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve often said that dandelions would survive nuclear fallout. Of this I am certain. So many of your photos made me growl in response to seeing those ever-perky weeds. 🙂


  3. I’m glad I discovered this post, March. I know some of these plants all too well. I don’t have buttercup, nettle, or plantain; I think my soil is too dry for them. Cat’s ear has invaded the boulevard on my street. It’s all I can do to hoick them out of my part of it, but so far I’m managing. Bindweed is here to stay, unfortunately. It’s in parts of the lawn and produces those really eye-catching white flowers just when the lawn looks its worst in August. At least I don’t have thistles or horsetail. It’s good to know other gardeners struggle with unwanted plants.

    Liked by 1 person

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