Name (and kill) this Texas weed
March 19, 2019 4:18 PM   Subscribe

My family yard has been overtaken by this leafy plant with small yellow flower-things: album with bonus stretchy kitty photo. The location is west Texas, near the east New Mexico border. Most of the plants are only a few inches tall, but some have grown to an alarming thick bushy height of around 2 feet tall. What is this weed, and how best should we kill it? Complications: 1)Hand-pulling weeds is not ideal for the adults involved, due to a combination of disabilities and plant allergies; 2)I don't want to poison the numerous neighborhood cats, including my photo model.
posted by nicebookrack to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
That... weirdly looks like arugula? If you taste it and it tastes peppery it's arugula.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:21 PM on March 19, 2019

I do not want to taste any plant from my yard that the numerous neighborhood cats may have peed on.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:24 PM on March 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

I believe it is london rocket. Pulling and herbicides are the recommended treatments, which you've said you don't want to do. PDF from New Mexico State University
posted by XtineHutch at 4:34 PM on March 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was thinking black mustard, but XtineHutch's thought is more correct (but london rocket is still a mustard plant, so I'm not totally off). The leaves on black mustard aren't as deeply lobed as what you have, which look a close match to london rocket.
posted by LionIndex at 4:39 PM on March 19, 2019

I'm fine with herbicides if there are options less likely to poison wandering cats. (I can chase away stray cats while I'm outside, but I can't lock up strays to keep them away from the poisoned area.)
posted by nicebookrack at 4:39 PM on March 19, 2019

Glyphosate, aka Roundup, has low mammalian toxicity and is very effective. Read the label and follow the directions, keep your cats off it until it dries but it's quite unlikely to hurt kitties regardless / I can't imagine they'll be that into wet weeds.

(This is why glyphosate is so widely used. I know there's controversy around it, but it's very safe and effective relative to the other chemical options. There are formulations not made by Monsanto if that's a concern.)
posted by momus_window at 5:01 PM on March 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is an annual, so it won't be as hard to eradicate as some plants. The trick will be to get it before it goes to seed - either mow it down and keep mowing, or cover it (or both).

Covering works best in smaller areas where you want to plant something else (like perennials). Cover the area in layers of cardboard, mulch, compost, etc., wetting the cardboard really well and then weighing it down with your other layers (this is a technique known as lasagna gardening that helps build your soil). Mulch can include chopped (mowed/shredded) leaves (ideally not all oak), pine needles, wood chips, grass clippings, etc. Leave this in place over the winter/early spring - at least 4-6 months - which is the time when the plant would normally be producing seeds. Then plant with something that will shade out and out-compete any remaining London rocket. Mulch really well - 3-4 inches of mulch - and you'll have a bed full of other stuff and maybe the occasional weed.

You can also try treating the area with a product that prevents seeds from germinating, such as corn gluten.
posted by acridrabbit at 5:59 PM on March 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

If it's sunny and relatively dry where you are, horticultural vinegar is really good. Burns and kills leaves. If there are any ex-pat Brits downwind they'll have a sudden craving for chips (= fries), but that's the only side-effect I know of.
posted by scruss at 6:17 PM on March 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Certainly NOT an attractive plant but your plant cover looks kinda sparse so ... if you mow reasonably regularly plants like this just become part of the 'lawn'.

Why exactly do you want to remove this plant? Removing it will only create gaps for other plants - if you cannot fill these gaps rapidly. I'm NOT a lawn advocate tho'.

As it's a broadleaf, and your 'lawn' appears to be grasses\monocots use a broadleaf herbicide - Grazon will do it without killing lawn grass, so will Versatile, as spots spraying will only kill the plants you can see, which won't be all of them.
posted by unearthed at 6:30 PM on March 19, 2019

Why exactly do you want to remove this plant?
Weeds more than a certain height are illegal within city limits, so we're about to be fined heftily by the county for our bushier london rockets.

Plant cover is sparse due to location on the Llano Estacado making the landscape hot, dry, flat, windy, scrubby, and prone to flash floods, drought, and dust storms. The portions of the yard not currently filled with london rocket are covered with sandburs, cacti, and rocks, the latter two of which make regular mowing difficult if not dangerous. We have no cultivated lawn grass to worry about killing, but I'd prefer not to encourage more sandbur stickers.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:18 PM on March 19, 2019

Boiling water can be pretty effective, as can the layering methods mentioned above. A hot solution of vinegar and water is extra fast. Hell you can salt the Earth if you really just want to kill stuff good and dead and prevent things from growing.

Your best bet will be to prevent them from setting seed for a few years in a row, because even when you kill all these, they will recruit from a long-lasting seedbank next season.

You’ll also do well to encourage the growth of plants you do like, they will help hold back the undesirables. Natives will be able to survive wth low water and little care once established. There’s a NM native plant society that can help you with info on that.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:08 PM on March 19, 2019

Okay, so searching on " Llano Estacado" and 'trifoilum' - scientific name for clover as I know there are dryland clovers, and clovers make great living mulches or lawn alternatives.

So this article in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal looks like going in right direction, even though it looks a bit too green - this is unlikely in your situation but may be a step towards being weed-free and herbicide free, with something more lawn-like. I'd talk to a company like this and see what else they have that may establish in this situation.

* I call these solutions living mulches and do them quite often in climates with rainfall from 300mm year to 2metres a year - you can usually find a plant that fits and a local seed company is the place to start - or university agriculture extension office.
posted by unearthed at 1:13 AM on March 20, 2019

It's London Rocket. In your shoes I would borrow someone's goat; they tend to love this kinda thing.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:58 AM on March 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

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