Sunday, June 9, 2024

Picking flowers

When Don and I returned from our second honeymoon, I noticed some stately flowers in bloom all over the place.

These are the flowers of the much-hated hound's tongue (Cynoglossum officinale), a biennial invasive weed that was Eurasian in origin.

I had never heard of this plant before we moved to our current location, and at first was inclined to see the plant as stately and beautiful.

That was before it went to seed ... and the seeds are loathsome burrs that cling to everything. I hate hound's tongue with a passion. (Bonus complaint: It's also toxic to livestock.)

So I went on a one-woman vendetta to eliminate this plant from our property. Unfortunately, like all good invasive weeds, it is simply everywhere.

Here's a sample of last year's seeds. The slightest jostle or brush, and they're all over you.

So when we returned from our trip and I saw the hound's tongue was in bloom, in irritation I snapped off the flowers of a plant in the yard.

And then I had an idea. It was impossible to get rid of all the plants, of course; but what if I just got rid of the flowers? No flowers, no seeds.

So I fetched a 30-gallon tub and a pair of gloves, waded out into the pastures, and started picking flowers.

Hound's tongue tends to cluster. When I find one plant, I usually find a lot.

The flowers can form well down the stems, so I tried to go as low as possible.

Sometimes when yanking a flower, I yanked out the whole plant. Well shucky-darn.

Quite a taproom, no? I've dug out some plants that had taproots six inches across. It looked like some freaky weird root crop.

I filled up one of the tubs with flowers, and went back to get another tub. Altogether in an hour, I picked about one and a third tubs' worth of flowers.

Over the next few days, as Don and I worked to get the property ready for cows, I yanked flowers whenever I saw them, probably enough to fill another tub at least.

There's no possible way I got every flower, of course, but there's some comfort in knowing I prevented several hundred thousand seeds from forming in the first place.

The battle continues ... and probably will for as long as we live here.


  1. I did this with thistles in the pasture. It really worked! Praying it's just as effective for you. We'll need an update next year :)

  2. Well, guess i'll try that with thisle too.
    Wish I were able to keep going after everything like that. Getting old(er) means you have to start picking and choosing your battles.
    Maybe with cows it'll be easier. Now a goat just gobbles all kinds of things and keeps on trucking. Lots of people clear land with goats.
    There is another crop ya'll need for getting things done when you're older but in good time hopefilly some arrive. And they will live next door to you.

  3. Those round things look like they would stick to clothing. Do they? We have something similar in the South. Those burrs are called 'beggar's lice.' My children played or walked across a field and came home with the seeds all over them. I don't recall what the plants looked like.

  4. I just looked it up. The plant is the same as mine. I hate beggar lice.

  5. Here in northern Europe we have same struggle with your lupine (lupinus polyphyllus)... People put it in their gardens, thinking it was pretty. Now it is everywhere, displacing our original plants.

    It is also slightly poisonous, but apparenlty animals have no interest on eating it.

  6. We have huge purple thistle plants in our fields. Until we got sheep. Had them for 2 years. They did not eat the thistles. But they ate all the flowers on them. The year we after we had them, we realized that we no longer had thistles at all, and then remembered seeing the flower less tops. Our goats didn't do the same job, but helped clear out briars.

  7. My MIL grew up on a farm in Western Minn. during the Depression. He used to offer his kids a penny a stalk for mustard plants. My MIL was highly offended because she would go up and down the rows and pull the weeds, and her sister would go straight to the biggest patches and pull them all!

    Thanks for that happy memory! We lost my MIL 4 years ago, and we lost her sister last week. It truly is the end of an era for us.

  8. We are fighting the same battle with mullein in our pasture, but we also found a couple of houndstooth plants as well.

    We would deflower the thistle at our last farm, and in the late summer/early fall, we'd go through and torch the thistle-head down of the plants that did flower, which helped cut down on them a lot.