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kids at weed garden At the Kansas State Agronomy field day, kids were able to see the weeds garden.  Weeds are considered by a farmer to be a plant out of place.  Curtis Bensch shows students, weeds that are common problems for a farmer.  Also, Curtis tells the students some interesting facts about these weeds. 


Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)
Giant ragweed is one of the primary weeds responsible for causing hay fever.  giant ragweed The seeds are an excellent food source for birds, and dense stands of giant ragweed can provide cover for wildlife.  It can grow up to 10 feet tall and is easily identified by its three lobed leaves.


Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
common milkweed Common milkweed is a poisonous plant that exudes a milky sap when its leaves are cut.  The monarch butterfly lay eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves and the larvae feed on the foliage accumulating the toxin which gives them an unpleasant taste to predators.  monarch butterfly Milkweed seed pods burst open in late summer and the seed and attached cottony fibers allow the seed to be dispersed by wind to new locations.


Hemp dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum)
hemp dogbane The fibers in the stems of hemp dogbane were used by North American Indians to make clothes.  This plant, like the milkweed is poisonous, emits a milky sap, and has airborne seed.


Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)
This foul smelling weed produces large trumpet shaped flowers which mature into round seed pods with short spines. jimsonweed The entire plant is poisonous and as little as 5 grams can kill a child.  The toxin in the plant is also a source of a sedative and hypnotic drug.  Jimsonweed can also be used to treat soils contaminated with heavy metals and radioactive materials. 


Devil's claw (Proboscidea louisianica)
Devil's claw gets its name from the mature seed pod which has 2 "devilish" clawlike structures that allow it to catch on to passing animal legs, thereby providing a means for transporting seed to new locations.  The young pods were pickled and eaten by early pioneers. devil's claw


Common pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
common pokeweed This plant is poisonous, with the roots containing the highest concentration of the toxin; however, this plant can be made edible for human consumption by boiling the young leaves.  Supporters of the presidential candidate James Polk wore stems and leaves on their clothes to signify their support.  The flowers of common pokeweed are odd, they don't have petals!


Common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album)
common lambsquarters The young leaves are often covered with a white granular powder which aides in identification.  The young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked and taste similar to spinach.


White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)
white snakeroot1 White snakeroot has opposite, ovate shaped, serrate leaves and clusters of small white flowers.  Its primary habitat is in damp shady woodlands and floodplains.  It contains a toxin that can poison cattle and the poison can also be transmitted to the milk. white snakeroot2
Abraham Lincoln's mother is thought to have died from drinking milk from cattle poisoned by eating white snakeroot.


Wild carrot (Daucus carota)
wild carrot Fern like leaves and a flat-topped flower cluster are characteristic of wild carrot.  If you look closely you can see a central purple flower surrounded by white flowers.  The roots can be eaten, but make sure you properly identify wild carrot because closely related species in the carrot family are highly poisonous (waterhemlock and poison hemlock).


Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
Alternate leaves consisting of three leaflets, and a vine or shrub-like growth habit characterize poison ivy.  Individual leaflets are often mitten-shaped.  The plant contains an oily substance that causes a rash in many people.  Washing with soap and cool water immediately following exposure may minimize its affect. poison ivy


Useful References:

Weeds of the West. A book from the Western Weed Science Society that contains excellent color photographs of nearly 300 species of weeds. Each species is presented with pictures, and an easy to read narrative gives the descriptions, habitats and characteristics of each weed. 

Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains. New and totally revised edition of Nebraska Weeds. Excellent color photos and black and white line drawings of 265 species (and descriptions of an additional 125 species) on nearly 600 pages in a hardbound book.  This book is very well done and a real bargain.

Weed Science Society of America. An excellent all around website with links to numerous weed sites.

First Aid for Persons Poisoned or Injured by Plants.  Good information in case you need it.

*Appreciation is expressed to the Weed Science Society of America for the plant images.

*This page constructed in October 2000 by Curtis Bensch, KSU Agronomy Dept, Manhattan, KS.

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