Instructables

Can anyone help me identify this plant, please?

Found in my new Community Garden plot, among the weeds that had sprung up over the winter. I was going to pull it, but then it starting looking to me like it might be a desirable garden plant.

A few clues:
  • garden is in Seattle, WA; in a Temperate Rainforest climate.
  • raised bed garden, filled with a none-too-rich commercial compost, built on top of native soil composed of equal parts clay & glacial till.
  • this plant or its seed survived an unusually long hard freeze (for this area) this last winter, 12 days of temps ranging from 10-20 F.
  • discoloration on leaves is probably Leaf Miner damage, of which our community gardens have a minor plague.
  • just before deciding that it might not be a weed, I discovered that it has a thick white taproot that extends well below the 4 inches or so that I'd dug out.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Picture of Can anyone help me identify this plant, please?
More Mystery.JPG
Mystery Plant.jpg
huntcg5 years ago
It looks a little like one of the "dock" family of weeds. We have those here -- Curly Dock, etc. Some of the ones I dug this spring had taproots bigger than large parsnips! I don't know if they are useful for eating, but have read they are a remedy for poison ivy (crush or chop the leaves and rub on affected skin). They grow in similar conditions.
Gorfram (author)  huntcg5 years ago
That's it! Hurrah!!! Thank you so much. :)

Found a picture of Bitter Dock online that looks just like my Mystery Plant.
(Also discovered that there's a place in Queens called "Alley Pond Park (Woods)" - there's got be some interesting etmology behind that.)

I'm off to dig me another taproot-unearthing volcano...
Dock in Alley Pond Park Woods.jpg
mmme993 years ago
those plants are annoying
brian31404 years ago
Ya, like 1000 people have said, "it's a dock weed", and not a dandelion, although, yes the other one was...

Also, even if it weren't a dock its definitely nothing commonly grown in a garden :)
spylock4 years ago
Pull it!
jonnyswim4 years ago
It is one of our English gardeners delights,the dandelion if you dig further down you will find it splits of in what is called a sucker root.At the other end of that root is mummy dandelion,as much as 30 metres away.Have fun.This is how it usually propagates.The tiny seeds on parachutes are what they use as a red herring.
eulaliaaaa!4 years ago
Looks like a Dockleaf.
kirsti4 years ago
Hi its def a dock. its a weed and will spread if not pulled. make sure u get the whole root out as it could come back if a little is left behind.
amseibel4 years ago
Do a Google search on Plantain weed. You'll find your answers.
cyn625 years ago
Is without a doubt a DockWeed
rippa7005 years ago
I'm in England but that looks very much like on of our Docks here - a pernicious weed. Pull it!
Gorfram (author)  rippa7005 years ago
Thanks for your reply - the Pernicious One has been vanquished. :)
019 Mystery Weed, vanquished.jpg
Gorfram (author) 5 years ago
Oh, rats! I think I've been kind of unclear here: Plant A, in the photo on the left, growing next to the wall of the raised bed, is the Mystery Plant that I'm hoping to identify. Plant B, in the photo on the right, lolling around in the huge volocano-like hole almost as deep as its taproot, has been positively identifed as a dandelion. Despite the undeniable usefulness of dandelions as salad greens, wine-making ingredients and diuretics; I have decided that, of my 21-1/2 square feet of garden space, exactly none will be devoted to dandelions. So Plant B, the one from the middle of my private version of the Big Dig, has gone on up to that Great Big Really-Very-Much-Raised Bed In the Sky. My problem is Plant A - since I don't know what it is, I don't know whether I want it in my garden; and so I don't know whether to say that it's a weed and dispatch it after the dandelion, or to say it's a Useful and Valued Garden Plant and go make it a nice fresh cup of compost tea. :)
More Mystery.JPGDeep Dandelion.jpg
kirnex Gorfram5 years ago
you're spot-on about the first: it is, indeed, a bitter dock. What are you growing, anyhow?
Gorfram (author)  kirnex5 years ago
Thanks for the confirmation on the Bitter Dock. :)

I'm not fully planted up yetm but so far I've got yellow crookneck squash, some basil, and a couple of marigolds. I've also planted (late in the season though it is) some snow peas to climb the mini-fence between the two halves of the shared raised bed, and will be putting in some strawberries and some more basil starts this weekend.

Updated picture is on the left below: the radio-tower-looking thing is a tomato cage turned into a trellis tower for the squash vines to climb. The trellis tower also supports the pole for the wind whirler that I'm hoping(!) will help deter our local flock of hungry and inquisitive crows.

Right-hand pic is a close-up of the wind whirler - its expression isn't always as surprised and disapproving as it looks here. :)
044 Twirler in the sunset.jpg045 Twirler Close-up.jpg
kirnex Gorfram5 years ago
Very cool! I wasn't sure what the wind whirler was, exactly, until I saw the faces on it. That is really cute and creative. I, too, ended up planting strawberries late in the season, but I actually prefer that for the viability of the plant. Most people plant strawberries right before they are to bloom and, thus, fruit, but that's actually not great for the plant viability, as you likely know, since it causes the plant to put all its energy into flowering/fruiting, rather than foliage and root development, thus making it much more susceptible to disease, infestation, and even winter die-out (depending on the zone and winter conditions). The advantage to buying strawberries AFTER fruiting season is that: 1) they are cheaper to buy! 2) they will put all their energy into foliar and root development, and thus, will be much more hardy and disease resistant next year. I do the same for blueberries, and other fruiting plants that need extra time to root well. Anyhow, great stuff. I don't know if you're practicing (or have looked into) "companion planting", but that might be something you'd find great for your beds. I mention it because you said you were planting basil and marigolds along with your fruits and veggies, and it reminded me of the practice of companion planting. It's a great way to minimize bug and animal problems, and optimize your planting space!
Gorfram (author)  kirnex5 years ago
Thanks :)

I thought about trying to explain the whirler, but figured the pictures would do better (a thousand words and all that (if a picture is worth a kilo-word, but takes up a megabyte, am I gaining by the bargain?)).

The strawberries are everbearing - they're supposed to produce a few berries at a time all summer long. I had these same crowns in last year's (different) plot, but didn't get any berries other than a few that were prematurely harvested by squirrels and crows. Hopefully, the crowns developed themselves up last year and are now chomping at the (botanical) bit to produce berries like mad.

The marigolds are indeed companion plants. The flowers will attract pollinators, but they're mostly there to deter harmful nematodes.* There's been some research lately that says that marigolds don't really do that; but my mother always swore by having marigolds in the vegetable garden, and I'm almost superstitiously stubborn about following my mother's gardening advice when I can.

Hadn't heard about basil as a companion plant, though. This basil is for me, me, me! ...For pesto, and for "green eggs and ham," and green eggs sans ham, and for mixing with thyme & rosemary to rub into chicken pre-roasting, and for generally scattering by the handful over nearly everything I cook. :)

(*Not that I think all nematodes are harmful - I've got a million beneficial nematodes in the fridge right now, just cooling their microscopic heels before they go out and start munching on all my soil-dwelling pests.)
It looks suspiciously like a dandelion to me... The root thing would fit with that, it does look a little like another weed in my garden but I don't know it's name, basically I can tell if anything's a weed by whether or not it's in my garden. I'd say yank it, also surviving frost, deep root and generally appearing randomly suggests a weed.
Gorfram (author)  killerjackalope5 years ago
Yeah, I think I may yank it just so I can stop wondering what the heck it is. :) It doens't quite look like our other local dandelions, though - one is pictured below inside of the deep excavation I created in digging it out. (For scale, the blade of the digging tool shown is just over 150 mm (6") long.) (Okay, yeah, I posted the pic mostly just to show off my dandelion-digging prowess. :) The dandelion roots are kind of dirty white and consistently about 3-4 mm (1/8") in diameter; while the mystery plant's root was just plain white and tapered from about 12-13 mm (1/2") at the base of the plant to maybe 6-7 mm (1/4") further down (about 100 -125 mm (4-5") or so). My first guess was the mystery plant was a wild plantain, but I don't think that's right either, - the leaves aren't pointy enough and it doesn't have the little flower spikes. I'm begining to wonder if it might be lettuce...? That's not quite as far-fetched as it sounds - there are onions coming up all over the place, left by the gardeners who had these beds last year; and someone two beds down (does that sound funny?) has been well-gifted with volunteer carrots.
Deep Dandelion.jpg
Looks more like a dandelion's leaves in that excavation photo... Unless it's just because it's young or a little weird, they do tend to vary a fair bit...
It *is* a dandelion.
hellokitty5 years ago
i think it is horseradish. strong smell, hot to taste. had these pop up when i lived in seattle.
acidbass5 years ago
it looks like a dandelion plant actually a weed unless you have rabbits
A plant is only a weed if you say it is.

For example, the common dandelion was intentionally brought to the United States as valued garden herb.