On our recent trip to coastal northern California,  I saw so many familiar plants, I remembered from all my years of living and hiking in both Southern and Northern California. This trip on the trails, the side of the road and in the hills I began to wonder more about these plants. One of my favorite blogs is titled Bug Woman – Adventures in London with the tag line “Because a community is more than just people.” On Wednesdays her blog starts; Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find….. I look forward to these mid-week blogs and hearing about the plants she finds in cracks in the pavement, empty lots and wooded areas. Each plant has its own unique history and lore. It has totally captivated me.

In the shop at the Berkeley Botanical Garden which I blogged about last week. I saw this book and put in on my list to buy when I got home.

Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer

Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer

Weeds of North America is going into the reference section of my library. Already I have really enjoyed looking at all the full page color pictures and learning more about some plant families I was unaware of. The introduction starts with this paragraph. “Since the rise of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, humankind has had to deal with unwanted plants competing with its cultivated crops, as well as affecting the health of families and livestock. It has only been in the last 400 years, however, that there has been an explosion in the spread of weeds. This marked increase coincides with colonial expansion and more recently, an increase in the world trade” -Canadian Food Inspection Agency Summary Report 2008

The book is broken down by species. It has drawings and loads of pictures. Each weed is described by the seeds, seedlings, leaf, flower, fruit, stem, color and it gives reasons why it considered a weed. Some of the plants are only potentially weeds. Knowing more about what is a weed or invasive plant is becoming more important as we try and save our native plants in their native environment.

Thistle on Highway 1 CaliforniaWe stopped along Highway 1 and I shot this picture of a thistle plant. I pretty sure it is a Bull thistle, Spear thistle, botanical name Cirsium lanceolatum, Carduus lanceolatus, Carduus vulgaris . The description in the book fits and I also checked the California Invasive Plant Councils data base. Click the name for more information on the Bull Thistle.

Being of Scottish decent I have always been attracted to Thistles. 2Scotish Thistle.As my knowledge of Native plants increases and I see the harm “invasive” plants cause, I have become more interested in the origin of these hardy marauders. According to the book “Bull thistle is a serious weed of waste places, fence-crows and cereal crops. It is reported as a weed of pastures in 19 countries and recognized as one of the most important weeds of pastures.” Bull Thistle, which has many other common names, is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa and has naturalized in the United States and Canada. It was most likely introduced during colonial times as a contaminant in seed or ballast that was scattered in western North America in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It was reported in the Northern coast of California, which is where I took the picture, by 1925. I do now understand the issues and problems surrounding them but I still think they are beautiful.

Happy Gardening!