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SOW THERE: Velcro weed no longer a sticky problem

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Sometimes a problem can seem so enormous that our tendency is to see the hurdle as insurmountable and pivot in the opposite direction.

That’s fine, I suppose, if you plan to always be on the move. But I’m one of those people who plods. I believe in progress vs. perfection. Even better when near perfection eventually occurs.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Velcro weed was a major problem in my yard.

Many plants are nicknamed Velcro weed because they have a tendency to latch onto your socks and shoelaces. This particularly heinous plant has spines on the base of the leaves that let it latch on.

I admire the weed’s clever method of proliferation — the plant can grab onto your pets, bicycle tires and errant laundry, spreading seeds to the far crevices of your yard.

Other common names of this plant in the Rubiaceae family are bedstraw and catchweed. Some other fun nicknames include cleavers, goosegrass, stickywily, stickyweed, robin-run-the-hedge and coachweed.

The plant is a common weed throughout North America, and up until recently, common in my yard.

This tenacious thing grew out of old tree stumps. It loved the shaded areas between the iris plants and underneath the privet near the alley. It thrived behind bushes and poked its tendrils from behind a pile of empty pots.

For a while, I battled it by hand but ended up with red welts on my wrists.

It’s clingy nature also means it is perfect for plucking with a hoe, as the plant branches out from a single taproot, meaning I could gather up a big glob of it in one swoop.

Care was taken to deposit the weeds in the green waste can, so any seeds became the problem of the city’s compost facility.

Many years ago I phoned up one of the Butte County farm advisers (I can’t recall which one) and asked some very probing questions about the weed.

The key, I learned, is that the wicked weed flowers beginning in June. The flowers are so small, that you wouldn’t know it was in bloom unless you looked at it closely. But each of those seeds is a potential future hassle.

Employing the pre-procreation method, I was able to time my attack for maximum efficiency.

Over the years, there were fewer and fewer prickly stems to battle.

Another factor in the decrease in Velcro weed is that most of the yard has systematically been covered with mulch. About two years ago we had a giant pile of chipped wood delivered to the driveway, which has significantly contributed to the decline in weeds overall.

Belated victory dance

This week I was doing one of those after work garden strolls when I realized that the Velcro weed was absent.

Funny how you don’t always notice a victory when the obstacle slowly fades away. The same is true of adolescent acne.

However, it’s important to celebrate the triumph if you think of it. So here’s a high-five in honor of plant eradicators everywhere.

While doing some searching of photos of the plant, since I was not able to take any in my yard, I came across some dialogue at http://davesgarden.com.

Here, I learned that some people consider the young shoots to be edible raw.

Others suggested boiling young shoots for 10-15 minutes and serving with butter.

Also, if the plants are allowed to flower, they will later make fruit (albeit small fruit), that can be picked and roasted. These can be used as a coffee substitute as both plants are members of the Rubiaceae family.

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