Archive for the ‘Noxious’ Category

Carolina Nightshade – Solanum carolinense var. carolinense

Carolina Nightshade fruit
Carolina Nightshade fruit

This native of the southeast North America has spread to cover most of the United States. It is known to be weedy and invasive spreading through seeds and its underground rhizomes. It is extremely deep rooted, and if the entire root is not removed it will regrow being a perennial. Of the 44 states in which it grows, 7 of them have listed it as a Noxious weed…Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Iowa and Nevada. Even though this plant is list as a noxious weed it cannot be listed as invasive, since it is native of this land.


Another reason for the aversion to this plant is that all green parts, but especially the unripe berries carry an alkaloid (solanine) that is very toxic. It has been shown toxic to horses, cattle, sheep, and humans. The symptomology of poisoning is abdominal pain and may potentially cause circulatory and respiratory depression. If sufficient quantity of the plant is consumed it can be deadly.  Although the unripe berries are toxic, the ripe berries are consumed safely by pheasants, quail, prairie chickens and wild turkeys.


The fruits have also been consumed by humans safely although it is not recommended. In times past the ripe berries (after turning yellow) have been used in herbal medicine to treat epilepsy, and to work as a sedative and an anti-spasmodic. In fact the Genus name (Solanum) is taken from the Latin, meaning quieting! According to Foster & Duke (A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants Eastern and Central North America Volume 40: Peterson Field Guides) the berries have been use to treat epilepsy and pain, as a diuretic, antispasmodic, and aphrodisiac.


The Cherokee Indians used it in their Herbal medicine. Often referred to as the bull nettle, the ripe, yellow berries were used to treat nervous stress and as a mild sedative. It was also used for treating asthma, and all sorts of bronchial conditions. The Cherokee also used the crushed leaves mixed with sweet milk as a fly poison. In another use the root would be strung on a thread or piece of leather latigo and hung around a teething babies neck to easy the pain!

Redstar Morning Glory – Ipomoea coccinea


This shining star should be the center attraction in any hummingbird garden. When the light hits the flowers just right the yellow star at its center lights up in a gorgeous display! It is one of the very few examples of a red morning glory, but be careful…it can run away with your garden if you are not careful. In the right situation this plant can become aggressive in its reach for the sun! It is a native of the eastern North America; running from Texas and Florida north to Michigan and Massachusetts. In Arizona and Arkansas it has been declared a noxious weed!


As with most members of this family, you need to be careful of ingesting the seeds. The seeds are believed to be highly toxic. Upon ingestion you will find they have hallucinatory properties which may cause distortion of sight and hearing! 


This small morning glory was first described in 1753 by Linnaeus who took a word meaning scarlet or red (coccinea) for its species name. The Genus name is taken from two words in the Greek language: ips – meaning worm, and homoios – which means resembling or looks like. These two Greek words combined refers to the worm like twining of the plants of this genus!


In the language of flowers the morning glory symbolizes affection, and truly the myth of Chien Niu and Chih Neu reflects that. In Chinese lore they were young people entrusted by God to care for water buffalo (Chien Niu) and seamstress duties (Chih Neu). When they fell in love they forgot their duties in the heavenly kingdom. As a result they were punished by being separated. The star shaped flower of the morning glory represents the one day a year that they may share their affection with one another!

Queen Anne’s Lace – Daucus carota

Monarche on Queen Anne's Lace 'bird's nest' seedhead
Monarche on Queen Anne’s Lace ‘bird’s nest’ seedhead

“Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne’s lace!”

Edna St Vincent Millay

Take a look at the picture…Bird’s Nest, Bee’s Nest…are alternate names for the wild carrot known as Queen Anne’s lace. As the plants flowers finish their bloom and begin to die back the

flower head curls in on itself, with the result of looking much like a bird’s nest! Its other common name, Queen Anne’s lace is because they were named for Queen Anne of England (1665-17140), who is reported to have been an excellent lace maker. There are many myths surrounding Queen Anne and this plant…one of them being how the plant got the darkened spot in the middle of the umbel of flowers. It was said that Queen Anne had pricked her finger with a needle and the drop of blood stained the lace (and the flower) with her blood.


This biennial plant of fields, meadows, waste places and roadsides is native to Europe and southwest Asia. It has now become naturalized in northeast North America and Australia. In many areas it has been declared a noxious weed. In some areas it is prohibited and even under quarantine! Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington states all find it, at least noxious.


It seems that traditionally almost every part of this plant was used in folk medicine.

Root: works as a diuretic, eliminates kidney stones and worms. As poultice for wounds and ulcers

            Seeds: used as a contraceptive, and an abortifacient, also used for hangovers

            Seeds & Leaves: settle the stomach when used together

            Leaves: with honey, will clean weeping sores

            Sap: used for cough and congestion

Whole Plant: made into a decoction – used for dropsy, kidney diseases, gout, gravel & stones

The root is edible, but harvest it the first year, the second it gets woody and tough. An essential oil of the seeds is used in perfumery.

Spotted Cat’s Ear – Hypochaeris radicata

Spotted Cat's Ear flower
Spotted Cat’s Ear flower

This plant of lawns, vacant lots and grassy areas began in Europe and now is found widespread through North America, both Canada and the United States. It grows from a central rosette of leaves above a tap root, just like dandelion. All parts of the plant have a milky sap that exudes when it is broken, and the seeds are windborne, just like dandelion. The major difference in appearance between the two is the formation of the flowers….on a dandelion the plant produces flowers at the end of a single, unbranched stalk. But the Cat’s Ear produces forked stalks that produce flowers at the end of each branch. This perennial is considered a noxious weed in Washington State.


The leaves and roots of the Cats Ear are the most often consumed although all parts are edible. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads of cooked like dandelion greens. They can be included in stir fry, steamed or boiled. The roots can be used as dandelion and chicory, chopped, roasted then ground to make coffee.


This plant has been confused with dandelion by many, used in cooking like dandelion, and is used in herbal medicine like dandelion. The only difference in medicinal use is that the Cats Ear is milder in action than dandelion, but it can be used for digestive and liver issues just like dandelion!


The only negative about this plant (other than some thinking it a noxious weed) is the possibility that it may cause Australian Stringhalt in horses. To avoid this possibility do not allow you horse to graze where there is Cats Ear growing in abundance. Horses must consume large quantities for this issue to crop up. The symptom is a sudden flexion of one or both of the lateral extensor tendons of the back legs.

Yellow Knapweed – Centaurea macrosephala

Yellow Knapweed
Yellow Knapweed

This native thistle like plant from the Caucasus’ is now spreading in North America at a rapid pace. The state of Washington has declared it a noxious weed and banned it from importation into the state. If found there it must be reported, and cannot be grown for its beautiful flowers!


These pin-cushion looking flowers are perennial and will spread easily. It will readily set its seeds and reproduce where they are not wanted, so deadhead them if you want control of where they are growing.


These big yellow, flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies. Yet they are deer and rabbit resistant. Remember though that resistant does not mean deer or rabbit proof! The stiff long stems lend them to being cut and dried for later use in dried flower arrangements.