Monday, April 29, 2013

A Good Day to Weed Out Bidens

No, not Joe Biden and his ilk, although their political destruction might also be a good thing. What I have in mind is Bidens, a wildflower genus that, in my part of the world, looks its best at this time of year. And this year they're really flourishing.

Local names for Bidens are sticktights, Spanish Needles, and beggar-ticks, or beggar-lice, depending on the shape of the seeds. (There are different species with differently shaped seeds.) Although they will eventually become coarse, ugly-looking weeds, at this time of year they're modest little things with dainty, rather pretty yellow flowers.

If you don't want to be covered in prickly little burs every time you walk through the garden, you can take one good look at Bidens in bloom. Enjoy it. Then harden your heart and root the plants up (carefully--the stems tend to break off just above ground level). It's most efficient to do this on a damp day when the soil is soft. In dry weather, the stems are more likely to break, which means you'll have to get a trowel and dig out the roots, or come back and pull up the plants later.

The position of this web page is that there's no excuse for poisoning Bidens. There's no valid excuse for keeping them in a garden, either, because they are such a nuisance later in the year and so easy to remove from the garden after they've paid their debt to society by producing their cute little flowers.

They will come back. Animals will pick up the seeds in the woods. Humans can only dream of a world in which the North American species of Bidens would ever be endangered...although, oddly enough, there are some rare species of Bidens that grow only in Hawaii and are threatened there.

Here's a general overview of Bidens:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidens

These aren't the species I've been weeding recently:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidens_aristosa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidens_frondosa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidens_laevis

These appear to be two of the Bidens I've been weeding:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidens_pilosa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidens_tripartita

...but Wikipedia doesn't even have a picture of the one that's really trying to take over the garden this spring. It's an interesting plant all right...round leaves, almost like violet leaves, near the ground and long narrow leaves up around the level of the flowers.

"Sticktights" is also the local name for tick-trefoil, which belongs to a different wildflower family. Tick-trefoil seeds don't feel prickly but they stick to clothes, and stick clothes together, like tiny bits of Velcro. Strangely, some people actually seem to want these plants:

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/71406/