Plant or weed identification time.
June 14, 2012 10:26 AM   Subscribe

What is this plant (or weed) growing in my back yard? It has multiple, thick stems with tiny thorns, green leaves that turn light green/reddish as the plant gets bigger, and a big root system with roots that are woody and slightly rubbery. It does not have any tendrils or flowers and left to grow, it begins to resemble a small tree.

I have six of these plants (or weeds?) growing in my backyard. They have appeared each of the three summers I've lived in my home--I started with just three and three more have appeared in the same areas. So I have two distinct locations with three of these things.

I have checked standard weed and plant identification sites and had no luck. No other posts on here appear to have similar items.

I let one grow last year and it got about a foot high. It resembled a tree and had no flowers. I finally dug it up and it had a relatively big root system with light colored, woody and slightly rubbery roots. The plant/weed in that location came back but grows much more slowly than it did last year. They show up in the late spring/early summer (late May or June here). You can't simply yank them up.

The leaves are either green or greenish-red, but they tended towards a mix of light green/red as they got bigger. The stem is light green with reddish, very fine thorns on it. As you can see from the pictures below, there are multiple stems and the leaves have teeth.

I live in the Salt Lake City area which may help with identification.

picture of leaves
picture of stem

I did not plant anything in these locations and there's nothing unique about their locations: one patch is near a wooden fence but the other is in the middle of the yard.
posted by lbo to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
If you touch the leaves, does it burn or make you itch? It looks like maybe some type of nettle?
posted by Eicats at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: They look like my new growth raspberry bushes. I have a bunch of these in my garden, offshoots from a couple of raspberry bushes I planted a few years ago.

Raspberries can resemble weeds because they grow from basal shoots.

From Wikipedia: "Raspberries are very vigorous and can be locally invasive. They propagate using basal shoots (also known as suckers); extended underground shoots that develop roots and individual plants. They can sucker new canes some distance from the main plant. For this reason, raspberries spread well, and can take over gardens if left unchecked."
posted by PixieS at 10:39 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with raspberries - my neighbors have plants, birds eat the berries and poop out the seeds, and I have lots of random raspberry plants growing all over my yard (in grass, in gravel, in dirt, in wood chips - these things are crazy). I'm transplanting them to a corner of my yard for my own raspberry patch, so I'm sure I will be passing on the favor to other neighbors.
posted by Maarika at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2012

They are Satan is what they are. When I lived with my family in Pennsylvania I pulled them out of the garden pretty much any time I did gardening/lawnmowing duty, so they're not just a mountain/west coast thing. I never found out what they were either, but PixieS's description of how raspberries spread does sound pretty similar to what I remember (although I doubt they're the exact same plant, because they never develop berries).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:52 AM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: It could also be blackberries. The Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) is quite invasive and common in the western U.S. Not sure about the never developing berries part though.
posted by dialetheia at 10:54 AM on June 14, 2012

Yes - raspberry or blackberry they look like.
posted by rich at 10:54 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: Based on some of the pictures I'm looking at online, I think raspberries might be the winner. I think I'll let one of them grow (the one in the picture is the biggest one so far) and see what happens. Having a raspberry bush right in the middle of the yard might be a little inconvenient though.
posted by lbo at 10:57 AM on June 14, 2012

ah, of course: rasperries! I knew it looked familiar :)
posted by Eicats at 11:13 AM on June 14, 2012

Yeah, nthing blackberry or raspberries. We had a few blackberry bushes growing on the fence around the back of our (rented) house. The landlord neglected to deal with them for a year, came back to the house (after being absentee the whole time and taking money by deposit) couldn't park in the (unused) driveway because of the things.

Anyway, point is, move them to a corner of the yard and don't let them spread. Or just kill them all now and hope they don't come back, Safeway still has pretty good prices on raspberries.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:32 PM on June 14, 2012

I'm down here in the sub-tropics whimpering because raspberries won't grow here and I love raspberries. Good luck!
posted by Anitanola at 12:03 AM on June 16, 2012

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