Under Milkweed?
July 19, 2008 9:34 PM   Subscribe

Yet another plant ID question: What's this?

I live in the upper left-hand corner of Washington State. This plant is about six feet high and is growing (very quickly) up over the back fence, from our neighbor's side.

My wife thought it might be milkweed so I Googled about but couldn't find any pics where the leaves were serrated, as this plant's are. Perhaps some milkweeds have leaves like this? I dunno.

What do you think? Also, how annoying is it going to be for us when this plant drops all its seeds or pods or whatever into our yard?
posted by Karlos the Jackal to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I don't know what they are, but I also have them in northeast Oklahoma.
posted by drleary at 9:48 PM on July 19, 2008

I think it might be sowthistle.

(Or Senecio vulgaris = common groundsel?)
posted by kirstk at 10:20 PM on July 19, 2008

The thistle family covers a lot of ground. A few minutes on Google images looking at "thistle" or "thistle pacific northwest" will tell you what kind of thistle it isn't, and might bet you close.
posted by dws at 10:45 PM on July 19, 2008

I'm familiar with it, but I don't know what it's called. I bet it has bright yellow flowers that look a lot like a dandelion, only smaller?

It's going to be very annoying when it seeds itself. Thankfully, there isn't a huge tap root, so you can just pull them up quite easily.
posted by Solomon at 12:13 AM on July 20, 2008

It could be a hawksbeard or hawkweed.
posted by TedW at 4:29 AM on July 20, 2008

It's some kind of thistle, I think, in which case the answer to your last question is: very. Pull it up now and minimize the number that you have to pull up next year.
posted by bink at 6:40 AM on July 20, 2008

Its a wild lettuce in the genus Lactuca. I'm not sure what species it is, but here is an example of what it looks like. I'm guessing it was thought to be a milkweed because the leaves contain a milky juice, something many of the wild lettuces do.
posted by buttercup at 6:45 AM on July 20, 2008

The ever-trustworthy Western Garden book says that the weed is annual sowthistle.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:26 AM on July 20, 2008

I'm with Buttercup on this one.
I thought "prickly lettuce" when I saw it.
Lactuca serriola.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:43 PM on July 20, 2008

I reached over the fence and pulled a leaf off (here it is -- I should've done this first thing, I guess) -- it doesn't look like the leaf of the lettuce (shown here) but it does look an awful lot like the sowthistle -- see the second pic here.

I'm going to go with sowthistle unless someone thinks the leaf close-up says otherwise.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 5:07 PM on July 20, 2008

I can agree that it is probably sowthistle based on the second photo. The leaf shape is good and the wide whitish central vein is pretty distinctive. The flower shape is similar and I think the bracts at the base of the flower look like the sowthistle. Lactuca wasn't a bad guess given the first photo and and see a lot more of that in my fieldwork and, unfortunately, my yard. An important lesson in botany is not just knowing what something is, but knowing when you don't know something.

posted by buttercup at 7:21 PM on July 20, 2008

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