Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Plants That Bite

I'd forgotten what green looked like until I went to Wisconsin to visit Sarah last fall.
Returning home to the drought ridden, brown landscape was hard.
I think there's something that God put in all of us to know that green is good and brown is bad.
The weather guessers were talking about at least another year of drought.
Brown became the color of depression and sadness.

Then it rained!
And it rained some more.
The weather guessers were changing their tune.
Over the winter, we had six straight weekends in a row when it rained.
No one complained.

With the return of the rain came the return of green.
Green grass, green trees, green everything!
The wildflowers put on a show they haven't had in many years.
Green allowed folks to have hope again.

I am even happy to see the green things in my pasture that bite.
Technically, they don't bite, but they sting, poke, scratch and otherwise cause distress when they make contact with bare skin.

The pretty spiky, yellow flower is hiding a favorite of mine. A tiny Barrel cactus.

I honestly don't know what this is. It looks related to the dandelion family.
ID'd--Spiny Sow Thistle

Can't see the danger here, can you? Looks like a bunch of grass.

The seed from that grass is the evil one. It's Spear grass. The tips, though you can't see closely, are barbed like a fishing hook. This is especially harmful to pets and wildlife. Once it's stuck, it works into the flesh of the animal and can cause serious infections.

This one is easily chopped down. It's actually a pretty cool plant and has a beautiful flower. Unfortunately, the flower has hundreds and hundreds of seeds to disperse on the wind like a dandelion. It doesn't take long to have a pasture overrun with thistle.

I've spent half the morning trying to figure out what this bush is. If you know, please share with me.
It's leaves are scented almost like a lime.
Ha, found it! It's a Prickle Ash aka Headache tree.
A member of the Citrus family. So I wasn't crazy when I thought the leaves smell like limes.

Don't know what this one is either.
This one, I'm not glad to see.
It gets about knee high and is very painful. I thought cutting it would make the problem go away. Nope, it just grows more "flowers" lower to the ground. Right now, I have this plant growing rampant in my pasture.

The ever friendly Prickly Pear cactus. It's pretty easy to see, and therefore to avoid. Its paddles are eaten by some. Jelly is made from the fruit it bears.

A blessing and a curse. It grows in a viney mass along the ground. You can be walking along, minding your own business, and find yourself tangled in its thorny tendrils. On the other hand, the berries (similar to blackberries) make yummy pies!

photo credit: TAMU
I believe I've successfully gotten rid of this plant on my property--Stinging Nettle.
It is used medicinally by some folks, but my skin's reaction to coming into contact with it is profound. Stinging Nettle should be called Fire Nettle. Once you accidentally brush up against it, it instantly feels like your skin has been set on fire.

This is the "impossible to get rid of" Sand Bur.
It's also one that I'd be okay if I never saw again.
It grows close to the ground, puts on very painful seeds, and loves drought and poor soil.
photo credit: Jack Keller

Lastly, there is the Buffalo Bur. I've also gotten rid of it in my pasture, but my neighbor hasn't. I expect to see some pop up again this year on my property. It grows burs as big as the first joint on a man's thumb. I used to tell my kids they were porcupine eggs.
Luckily, this plant has shallow roots and is easily pulled up with a shovel.

Despite the rains making all things green again, I still have to enjoy my land in blue jeans and boots.
Shorts and flip flops are just asking for trouble.
The plants bite.


  1. When it comes to the landscape GREEN IS GOOD. I'm so glad the rain finally came your way, even if it did wake up the spiky stuff along with all the flowers. And you have a lot of spiky stuff in your neighborhood.

    1. Thanks Leenie, green IS good! Rain is even better.

  2. Hi. Just visiting via Leenie at Side Trips. Your climate and pesty vegetation seems just like ours in South Australia. In places, the prickly pear has got out of hand. We also have a noxious weed called Salvation Jane with the prettiest of purple flowers but lethal to sheep and horses. My hometown Adelaide is a twin city with Austin, Texas.

    1. Thanks for visiting! I'll be wandering around in your blog soon. Wonder why your Salvation Jane is called that if it kills sheep and horses?

  3. Your picture of the Stinging Nettle brought back some unpleasant memories of my encounter with it. Glad you are finally getting some much needed rain. Weeds can be very pretty but I prefer to do without them; especially the "nasty" ones.

    1. What amazes me it that folks make tea out of the Nettle. I swear that the stinging thingies jump off the plant and on to me.

  4. Any chance you would dig some dewberry plants and send them to me? I had some but killed them accidentally!

    Anyhow, we had frost today so all of our pretty flowers are probably doomed...but we are still green and it does indeed make me cheery!

    1. Did you have frost at your house or at the hillside chalet? Hope it wasn't too bad. It would be a shame to lose your spring blooms.
      As for the dewberries---I'm certain you didn't kill them. It's impossible unless you pour gasoline on them and light them on fire.

  5. We have horrible plants that bite also. Great post! You did a nice job...can I send you some bull's head thistle, or possible a Cockle bur or two? I can get seeds real cheap for you, free even. How about some Nodding Thistle, they look like a Scotch Thistle so you all could pretend you were in Scotland...I would be willing to share.