The Prettiest Weeds Money Can Buy

The Prettiest Weeds Money Can Buy
You’d think the folks that sell seeds would know better than to collect and package weed seeds for sale, but they clearly don’t. There are plants that, in the Bay Area, at least, are meddlesome weeds, and yet companies sell them as ornamental flowers and vegetables. While these plants might be an annual plant in many parts of the country, they are downright dangerous to introduce to your garden: you will regret it. …That being said, these same plants are freaking gorgeous, and if you have to find you have to put up with them, just be glad they aren’t Wild Fennel*.

Rat Tail Radish

AKA: Aerial Radish, Spicy Bean Source: Botanical Interests
Rat Tail Radish
Left: The patch of Radish in my yard. Right: the variety of flower coloration found there, in detail.
This is my favorite Bay Area weed, for two reasons:
  1. It grows beautiful bunches of flowers in so many colorways, even in the same area. Just small patch of them in my yard can sport yellow, bright pink, white-and-pink, white, yellow-and-pink (my fave!), and purple.
  2. They are easy to pull up when you don’t want them any more–the roots are short and come out of the ground very easily.
You’d think with a name like Wild Radish that the roots would be edible bulbs, but in these, it’s the seed pods that you can eat. If you’ve ever seen a broccoli or kale plant go to seed, you’ll recognize the pointy green pods. I don’t love radish in general, so as a food, I’m not thrilled. As long as these keep popping up in my garden, I’ll just keep taking pictures.

Miner’s Lettuce

AKA: Winter Purslane Sources: Amazon, Territorial Seed
Detail of the flower stalks of tender Miner’s Lettuce, thriving in a shady part of my yard.
These cute little lilypads, with their tiny cascade of white flowers, pop up in the wet winter of the Bay Area, and die away in the heat of summer. This means they really don’t crowd out summer vegetables, and I’ve even heard of them being used as a ground cover to form a mat of green to keep other winter weeds from popping up. As their name suggests, these plants were eaten by the gold miners in the Bay Area, and are actually quite nutritious, if a little bland. I recommend using their leaves in salads with a tasty dressing, and not as a spinach substitute in anything cooked (as I had seen suggested online), as the taste is too mild and the texture too tough for cooking.

California Poppy

Source: Amazon
Some of the color variations of poppies in my yard, some with red striations from the base and others with yellow edging each petal.
The orange poppy is the California State Flower, so I’m not surprised it’s easy to find sources for the seeds. They are beautiful, and, like the Rat Tail Radished and Miner’s Lettuce, thrive only in the wet winter, fading away in summer. Their roots are also shallow, so the plants come up whole when you need to remove them. There are many colors and varieties of poppies available for purchase. If you already have native poppies in your area, there are a few things you need to know before you plant those other varieties.
  1. Wild poppies have evolved to thrive where they grow. Adding new varieties that will cross-pollinate with the native, orange poppies can weaken their next generation. You could end up with no poppies.
  2. Wild poppies’ brilliant orange color is dominant, so even those blue, white, and red beauties you plant this year will be orange poppies next year.
Even in the wild population, there is variation in the poppies, and I would recommend collecting seeds yourself instead of buying them to ensure healthy plants and the colors you desire. In my own yard, in just one area along the edge of my patio, I can find full-orange, yellow-orange, and (my favorite) fiery, red-orange wild poppies. *They do actually sell Wild Fennel Seeds, because people are stupid.

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