Think twice before you are pulling up what you think are ‘weeds’ despite this label of weeds they are not only beneficial to our pollinators and wildlife but beautiful too.
Charlock: attractive to bees and white butterflies, it is also a host for turnip flies and other vegetable pests. Its mustardy young leaves ate edible when cooked, but only before flowers appear.
Field Pennycress: this annual has edible peppery leaves and fruiting heads prized by florists. Its seeds make a good alternative to mustard and can stay viable for over 30 years.
Herb Robert: a magnet for hoverflies, carpet mothers and bees, this prolific seed-scatterer is a nuisance among vegetable seedlings. Leaves rubbed on the skin are antiseptic and deter mosquitoes.
Lesser hairy willow herb: moths and bees are drawn to these quick spreading flowers. Edible, vitamin rich leaves are useful in gargle to ease throat infections.
Prickly sow thistle: these copious seed producers are highly attractive to wasps, hoverflies and other pollinators, and useful reservoir for aphids. Its immature leaves make tasty vegetables.
Red clover and white clover: its flowers attract honey and bumblebees, long tongues flies and moths, its roots fix nitrogen and improve soil quality and its dried flowers can be used to make wine.
Dandelions: is a common perennial weed that forms a large flat rosette, it spreads readily from seed, germinating throughout the year. It is beneficial to all pollinators and is one of the first sources of nectar in the beginning of spring that they rely on. Dandelions are also famously used to make coffee during the WW1/WW2.
Creeping buttercup: a low growing perennial weed which prefers wet heavy soils. It is a common weed in lawns in the UK and as the name suggests, it spreads using creeping stems that run along the surface of the ground, extending upwards into a new plant on a regular basis. These beautiful little flowers are beneficial to all pollinators and flying insects.
Birds foot trefoil: is a perennial lawn weed and is also a member of the clover family. It can be a major problem on UK lawns as it forms large patches, it has a deep root system and spreads by both stolons and rhizomes (above and underground runners).is a perennial lawn weed and is also a member of the clover family. It can be a major problem on UK lawns as it forms large patches, it has a deep root system and spreads by both stolons and rhizomes (above and underground runners). The flowers are bright yellow and pretty and resemble those of the Honeysuckle. They can be seen from late April until late September. Birds-Foot Trefoil can tolerate a wide variety of soil types but prefers non acidic, dry soils.
Yarrow: is a perennial weed, common weed on all types of lawns and turf in the UK. It has deep fibrous roots and can withstand droughty conditions. It spreads by creeping stems which root at intervals. It is generally seen later in the year and the deep root system also gives it the benefit of being able to survive dry conditions. The leaves are fern like in appearance macking it very easy to identify.
Scarlett pimpernel: is an annual weed meaning that it only lasts one year, fresh plants need to grow from seed. This means it is rarely a threat to a well maintained lawn. The leaves are very similar to Common Chickweed but can be identified by its square stems and red flower. The distinct flowers of Scarlet Pimpernel can be seen from June – September. Each flower has five petals and are an orange – red colour.
Self heal: is a common weed on all types of lawn throughout the UK. This perennial weed spreads by creeping runners known as rhizomes, which root at intervals. It can quite happily grow in closely mown areas of turf although if left alone, it will grow to a height of 30cm and produce an attractive plant. This plant can thrive in most conditions, the leaves appear in pars and in closely mown areas, they may have a purple ting. Selfheal flowers from June to October, producing a bright purple flower.
Mouse ear chickweed and common chickweed: chickweed is a perennial weed and is very common on lawns throughout in the UK. It can be very annoying as it can spread very rapidly, smothering grass in the process. It can easily survive close mowing but can be controlled with selective herbicides. The small dark green leaves are distinctive in that they are very hairy. The flowers are very small and upright and white in colour appearing from late spring up to autumn.
Creeping cinquefoil: is a perennial weed, more common on neglected lawns and turf in the UK. It is rarely a problem on well maintained lawns. It spreads by creeping stems which root at intervals. The leaves are distinctive with five different segments with toothed edges. The flowers are yellow, again with five large fleshy petals which are visible from June to October.
Slender speedwell and germander speedwell: is a perennial weed which can be a persistent problem on lawns throughout the UK. It spreads by both underground and over ground runners. Control can be achieved with current chemicals but this needs correct timing and adjuvants. Slender Speedwell is more of a problem in closely mown turf than Germander Speedwell.
Lesser celandine: Lesser Celandine is usually one of the most prominent weeds seen early in the spring. The flower is one of the first to show among lawn weeds but the plant soon disappears as the weather warms up. This is difficult to control in a permanent sense as it needs to be hit early each year to weaken it. More commonly found in darker shady areas. The leaves are fleshy and dark green, very easily recognised.
Ribwort plantain: Very similar to greater plantain in habit and location, albeit the leaves are long and thin. This plant is very drought tolerant and it can cause unsightly patches, easy however to remove using the correct selective herbicides.
Common ragwort: ragwort is rarely a problem on fine lawns but is more common on low maintenance and neglected lawns. It is a biennial weed meaning that it produces lots of leaf in year one with the aim to produce a significant number of flowers in year two. It is not difficult to control in lawns.
I hope I have changed your mind about some truly beautiful and valuable ‘weeds’ that we have here in Britain.
Next time you are gardening, don’t be too quick to pull up what you think of as weeds, give them a chance to grow and change your mind.
Speedwell and ragwort are my