Friend or weed?
August 27, 2022 9:44 AM   Subscribe

These plants have taken over my garden. Are they weed or good plants?

It’s driving me crazy. I’ve tried using a few plant apps but can’t seem to confirm what they are. The closest I’ve gotten are “solidago” or golden rod. But sometimes it comes up as horseweed too. They’re pretty tall.

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Photo 2.
posted by inevitability to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Whether they're weeds or good plants is going to depend on whether you can find some use for them. But whatever they are, their growth habit makes them look to me like super prolific seeders so I'm not surprised that they're taking over.

If those plants were taking over my garden and I hadn't managed to get a positive identification, I'd have concerns about breeding up something potentially invasive to neighbours and I'd be slashing them all back to ground level before they could set seed. If they did turn out to be something potentially useful I wouldn't expect it to be too hard to get them to recover from that.
posted by flabdablet at 9:51 AM on August 27, 2022

Technically, "a weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, "a plant in the wrong place", or a plant growing where it is not wanted. This introduces the concept of human and their goal in any particular setting."

I agree with flabdablet in that this one looks invasive and up to no good.
posted by Dolley at 9:54 AM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'd leave them there if bees are visiting them.

Horseweed doesn't get that tall, but goldenrod does. On the other hand, goldenrod does usually have yellow tops.

That's based on my knowledge from the Montreal area, it may work out differently where you live.
posted by zadcat at 9:55 AM on August 27, 2022

Looks like horseweed to me. Aggressive weed, but it's native to most of North America including my area (mid-Atlantic) and pollinator friendly so not all bad.
posted by headnsouth at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Should have mentioned, I’m in mid-Atlantic. Also— I *think* they’re taking over. It’s only my second year at this house and garden.
posted by inevitability at 10:06 AM on August 27, 2022

I'd leave them there if bees are visiting them

I have a standing disagreement with ms flabdablet on the nuisance status of a prolific-seeding invasive that regularly grows up at our place on exactly that basis. She hates them. I like listening to the bees work them and I like what their deep fleshy roots and rosette leaves do for the soil at their feet.

Thing is, though, if you've got so much of this stuff growing at your place that it's smothering everything else then it probably wouldn't hurt to cut it back some even if it is useful to bees, because they probably won't be short of it in the locality.
posted by flabdablet at 10:11 AM on August 27, 2022

I vote Canada Goldenrod. The flowers bloom yellow, right? Horseweed flowers just turn white and fluffy. This goldenrod is native, but it can be pretty aggressive. I wouldn't worry about removing it completely unless you really hate the way it looks. But it's probably wise to cut it back to a reasonable amount so it doesn't crowd out all your other plants.
posted by gueneverey at 10:17 AM on August 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

If the bees do like it, then you could try chop and drop after flowers but before viable seeds. That's how I (try to) handle bidens. It looks horrible and it probably doesn't really keep the bidens from roaring back, but that's okay because the bees really love bidens, plus it's free mulch.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:17 AM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's not goldenrod and it's not asters. Other than that, I've got nothing.
posted by heatherlogan at 11:39 AM on August 27, 2022

Seconding gueneverey that it's Canada goldenrod. It looks like it is about to bloom - the flowers will tell you for sure.
I live in Europe, and it's invasive here. I like it, but wouldn't want it in my garden because it spreads out and displaces other plants. Insects seem to like it though.
posted by amf at 11:43 AM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Whether it's Solidago, horseweed, fleabane or Asteraceae (and I'm thirding gueneverey's suggestion as most likely), they are native to the Mid-Atlantic and should be kept to the extent you can tolerate them. Large scale "grazing" areas for pollinators are still a rare occurrence around here.

You'll know a lot more when they flower. Some of the possibilities are prettier than others. I personally pull the plant I call horseweed, but most of the others are ok in my book. They all benefit aesthetically from cutting back mid-summer (juneish), what's often called the "Chelsea Chop". The solidagos are a great combo of attractive late summer blooms that also rank high in number of species they sustain.

In my circles, "invasive" refers exclusively to non-native species by definition.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 2:38 PM on August 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm pretty sure it's Canada Goldenrod, a mentioned above. It's native to North American but would be considered invasive in Europe or Asia.

Goldenrod is about to blossom, starting about now for the next 4-6 weeks maybe, and once it blossoms you won't have any doubt about what it is.

FWIW a number of the wildflowers blossom about this time of year or even a bit later, and if you ask most people around here they will identify them instantly as "weeds,"* because they never have the patience to let them grow and bloom the way nature intended. We have SEVERAL of the best species in our wildflower garden now that will bloom and be incredibly beautiful between now and October or so.

(*By "weed" they mean a tall aggressive looking plant with just green leaves that never seems to blossom or flower. Also, if it grows more than 6 or 8 inches tall, it is almost certainly a "weed." I will note that definition of "weed" is a dumb one, and classifies nearly every native plant around here as a "weed," while every annoying sort of imported and non-native grass and plant is somehow considered "desirable." But that definition is the one that many people live by.)

We have a bunch of goldenrod growing around our yard, and encourage it, but we also have deliberately cultivated wildflower garden areas and it fits in with those just fine - all the wildflowers (that do well) are very tall, very aggressively spreading plants.

That's the kind of wildflowers we have around here (prairie and savannah). Those cute little teensie-weensie wildflowers are for mountains or somewhere, not down here on the plains with the bison and antelope and the wildfires.
posted by flug at 9:50 PM on August 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all! Im learning a lot! Including the Chelsea Chop, useful. I’m going to cut it back where it’s intruding on some of the coneflowers I have but will let it continue on for the next few weeks in hopes they will sprout into beautiful goldenrods. I believe the previous owner was also in the mindset of a wildflower garden.
posted by inevitability at 6:34 PM on August 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Last follow up! They have gold blossoms now! Goldenrod!
posted by inevitability at 5:55 PM on September 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

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