The Weed Police are Among Us

Please don’t tip off the police.

thistle4
Cirsium texanum

This is a portrait of my pet thistle.  If I am not mistaken, it goes by the name of Cirsium texanum Buckley. It grows next to my outside water tap. Those in the know will recognize it as one of those broad leaf weeds (shudder) you hear about on t.v. that we are supposed to kill on sight. Well, it arrived last year and claimed sanctuary. For better or worse I agreed to shelter it.

I realize some people think the Weed Police is a figment or fancy invented by the kind of people who still watch the X-Files, listen to George Noory or talk openly about conspiracies.

Yet. Only yesterday at a nearby apartment complex I saw several guys exit a mysterious white van. One of the thugs had a jet pack apparatus strapped to his back. Image: ghost buster. A hose was attached to the sloshing jetpack. The man sprayed some liquid onto the crispy lawn but it did not look or smell like water. Wake up people! The Weed Police are real. They walk among us. Be wary of men in white vans.

What’s the use of a thistle?

If colour and ease of care aren’t enough of a draw then you must be one of those PRACTICAL people who expect results and productivity. You probably even know how to use a spreadsheet. Count me impressed.

1. Food for wildlife

This thistle is the preferred food for painted lady butterfly larvae. They are one of my favourite butterflies because they can do tricks like jump onto your finger on command. Best thing ever to get kids interested in science and even win over the ones who are initially squickish about bugs.

Bumble bees are drawn to the pollen, butterflies like the nectar and goldfinches will eat the seeds. I have even heard some birds use the flowers to line their nests.

2. Improves Soil

This thistle is a biennial with a nice tap-root. If you have heavy compacted urban clay this is exactly the kind of plant you want to see growing on the land. The tap-root breaks up the soil allowing air and water passage. Where there is air and water, micro organisms have a chance to get established which turns inert clay into a happy place for plants to grow. Tap roots also draw up nutrients from deeper soil zones. When the thistle dies it will decompose and share those nutrients with neighbouring plants.

First they came …

So far, I have managed to keep the thistle hidden from the men in white vans. But really, people. We need to do more than just hide our friends. First, they came for the dandelions, and I did not speak up.  Then they came for the milkweeds, and I did not speak up. Today it is the thistles.  Tomorrow they will target our Brown Eyed Susans and Johnny Jump Ups. Stop the insanity. Show some courage and speak out. It is past time to stop the Weed Police.

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20 thoughts on “The Weed Police are Among Us

  1. I love them ( well most of them ) – totally useful in so many ways. here they poison blackberries (how sad is that ) and they say comfrey is an illegal plant oh and so is st johns wort both top of my medicinal healers…
    And one year ( many ago) I asked the girls to gather the seed heads that lovely soft thistle down and made them tiny magic fairy pillows .
    what to do????
    Sandra

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    1. Oh! Fairy pillows. I love that idea. Your girls must have been thrilled. I’ve heard the tales about comfrey but I still want to add it to my garden. Because as tenacious as it is, the lacewings love it.

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  2. I’m lucky to live in a pretty tolerant community but in some places the weed police are really the police. People get finked on by their neighbors for violating landscaping ordinances. City crews show up and mow down mature prairies. Very unfortunate.

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  3. I’ve been eyeing the wondrous white prickly poppy blooms all along the high and byways wishing I had some in my yard. Your milk thistle is something I covet as well. For one thing the deer leave them alone. And, as you point out, everything else eats them up happily in one form or another.

    I believe this is all part of an ongrowing transition for our area from lawn to garden bed. There are so many beautiful native plants that are welcomed into a garden bed but are anathema to lawns. Water prices and use restriction are on our side UtPL, the men in the white vans may win a few skirmished but we’ll win the war!

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    1. Oh. I like those poppies, too. I recently took a picture that kind of makes them look like they are a pair of fried eggs. I wasn’t sure what kind of thistle it was. It doesn’t have that prickly collar around the blossom and it is tall. It reaches my shoulder. I was hoping people would chime in =)

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  4. Nicely done. There is no need for herbicides on our lawns. None. My 2 cents.
    One of my favourite birds is the American Goldfinch, aka “distelfink” meaning thistle finch. They nest later in the year after the thistles have gone to seed and they use the down to line their nests.

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    1. The irony is that those herbicides aren’t even terribly effective. People wind up using them over and over again trying to kill ‘weeds’ that have mutated a resistance. If a person really wants a smooth lawn the best way to control weeds is just to pull them up. Someday, I hope I will see one of these mystical goldfinches that are so common for everyone else!

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      1. I remember one day as I was walking to work. (Story time, Debra!) This was when I worked at the phone company,downtown. The last leg took me through a small green space – an acre or two of lawn and trees and pretty stone pathways. I saw a little cottontail munching on the grass… exactly three feet from the sign reading “Stay Off the Grass – Freshly Sprayed Herbicide”.
        I cried like a baby.

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        1. That gives me the chills. I have an upcoming post about a local ‘wildflower’ garden that sprays a certain well known herbicide every 2 weeks! They claim it is safe because they put up post-it size notices. But. If you are growing wild flowers, you are attracting wildlife. And here is the part that they ‘forgot’ — not one of those creatures can read. @#%^s

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      1. It’s just been in the news that the biggest garden centre here has treated all plants with pesticides. But it’s not declared anywhere. We could buy something that will destroy our bees.

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        1. Outrageous. I recently learned that one of our local ‘wildflower’ gardens uses herbicides regularly to keep down the weeds. The hypocrisy of this blows my mind.

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