Pampas grass was planted intentionally a long time ago, but then became a weed.

Weeds can be so very sneaky; getting into the weirdest places, and taking on all sorts of forms. They are mostly annuals or perennials that infest lawns and beds, but can be shrubs, vines and even big trees that grow among desirable plants, in untended areas, in cracks in pavement and even in roof gutters and on flat roofs. Many look appealing at first, but then later get out of control and displace the plants around them, or wreck whatever fence, pavement or building they encounter. Heck, I even suspect that it was a weed that stole my neighbor’s Pontiac!

While the soil is still damp from earlier rain, the most common annual weeds that are just developing are easiest to pull. They will put up more of a fight later, after they have dispersed roots, and the soil has gotten a bit more firm. Perennial weeds that were already established before winter will be considerably more stubborn, but not as stubborn as they will be as the soil dries later. Bermuda grass and crabgrass are always nasty.

The biggest, sneakiest and most stubborn weeds are ironically descendents of substantial perennials, shrubs and trees that were once actually planted in gardens. They are sneaky because they look as pretty as their parents when they first appear, in order to dissuade us from pulling them. The problems are that they are often too abundant, and very often get into spots where they will be problematic as they grow.

For example, Acacia dealbata and black locust are rather appealing trees while they are young, especially when they bloom. This is why they were originally planted in local gardens. It is tempting to allow self sown seedlings to grow instead of pulling them when they first appear. However, because they were not actually planted strategically where they can necessarily be accommodated, they grow in random situations, too near to pavement, fences or eaves, or in areas that are already landscaped. As they mature, they can damage these features or the plants around them.

Privet, pampas grass, castor bean and a variety of palms, acacias, ivies and several other plants that do a bit too well in local gardens have certain potential to become invasive or aggressive big weeds. Tree of Heaven, giant reed, the various brooms and the most invasive of acacias  have not been available in nurseries for many years because they are so problematic, but continue to be some of the most invasive and aggressive weeds in California.


10 thoughts on “Some Weeds Were Not Always Weeds

  1. As far as I know we do not have any of those weeds you mention. But some of the most aggressive weeds here are also ones that were imported for gardeners to use without realizing their invasive potential. Two examples are the Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) and Himalaya Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).

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    1. Oh yes, I have heard of the Impatiens glandulifera, although I have never actually seen it. It sounds bothersome. It is difficult for me to imagine a species of that genus being a problem.


      1. I will have to write about it in the summer as we have lots nearby at the stream at the bottom of our hill. I can smell it in summer… a rather overpowering and ‘soapy’ fragrance I find unpleasant.

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    1. English ivy is naturalized here and climbs the redwoods, which are hundreds of feet tall. If killed by cutting it at the base, the dead ivy stems can cling to old redwoods for decades! It can be more than a hundred feet up.


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