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Meet 5 Common Backyard Plants with Healing Superpowers

Design
  • 09/16/2014
  • under Design, Gardening, How To

Although you may already be familiar with many of your neighborhood “weeds” and their myriad uses (such as using dandelion leaves in salad), it’s quite possible that you pass by several other important plants on a daily basis, completely unaware of their awesomeness. Those listed below are usually torn from manicured gardens because some people believe that they’re not as refined or pretty as peonies or hollyhocks, but their healing properties are so spectacular that they should earn a place of esteem amongst the most prized rose species. Take a look at these humble little plants, and if you find them popping up around your own yard, maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for them.

Yarrow

Commonly considered a weed and often ripped out of cultivated gardens everywhere, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) might not be the prettiest or most graceful of flowers, but it’s been used medicinally for thousands of years. Known as “soldier’s woundwort”, this plant can staunch bleeding like you would not believe, and Roman soldiers took it with them to the battlefield so they could treat their wounds with its feathery green leaves. Not only does yarrow staunch blood flow—it also prevents infection and speeds healing, which is ideal for cuts and open wounds.

Taken as a tea or tincture, it can alleviate heavy menstrual bleeding, and can also lessen menstrual cramps and spasms due to endometriosis.

Related: DIY – How to Make Your Own Herbal Tinctures

Mullein

Easily identifiable by its soft, fuzzy, silver-grey leaves, mullein (Verbascum spp.) is another plant whose medicinal properties have been lauded since time immemorial. It’s one of the safest herbal allies out there, with roots, leaves, and flowers all usable to treat a variety of conditions. A tea made from the leaves is excellent as an expectorant, and brings great relief from wheezing, hacking coughs. Smoking dried mullein leaf can also alleviate asthma, and oil in which the flowers have been steeped is ideal for treating ear infections. The entire plant is anti-inflammatory, and a tincture of the leaves and flowers can bring great relief from joint pain, arthritis, and even lymphatic congestion.

In its first year, mullein will grow quite low to the ground in an almost cabbage-like formation, and in its second year, a tall, spear-like, yellow-flowered central stalk shoots skyward, reaching up to six feet in height.

Echinacea

You’ve likely heard of echinacea before, especially if you’ve taken herbal remedies for cold and/or flu symptoms, but would you recognize the plant if you walked past it? Commonly known as “purple coneflower”, this plant (Echinacea spp.) is one of the most powerful immune boosters on the planet. While Echinacea angustifolia is often taken as immune system support, Echinacea purpurea tends to be taken for urinary tract infections. The plant’s roots, leaves, and flowers can all be used.

*Note: Because of its popularity, echinacea varieties have been over-harvested in recent years. If you find some growing on your property, please only harvest it very sparingly, and allow it to self-propagate. You could even help it out by planting a few more around the property! They’re wonderful for attracting pollinators, and are really quite lovely in their own way.

Related: 5 Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Abilities

Coltsfoot

It’s more than likely that you’ve walked past this unobtrusive plant on several occasions and never even noticed that it was there. Known here in Quebec as “Fils avant le père” (son before the father) because its dandelion-like yellow flowers spring up well before its leaves appear, coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) loves to grow in sandy soil near rivers and lakes, and is an exceptional herb for treating coughs of all kinds. In fact, the prefix in its Latin name derives from “tussis”, which means “cough”. You can recognize coltsfoot leavesfrom their characteristic heart-shape, similar to that of, well, a colt’s hoofprint, and the leaves’ unique texture: they’re smooth and glossy green on top, and a velvety grey-green underneath.

*Note: Coltsfoot should not be taken by pregnant women, nor should it be used for more than a few successive weeks.

Milk thistle

Although this plant might seem a bit daunting to approach, as it’s covered in spines and seems altogether unfriendly, milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is immensely beneficial for many different health issues. Milk thistle seed powder is excellent for cleansing the liver, kidneys, and gallbladder, and is exceptionally effective at treating gallstones and kidney stones. The powder can be taken in tincture or decoction form, or can even be added to smoothies, but it takes a lot of seeds to make even a small amount of powder: although you can gather the seed heads in autumn after they’ve dried out and stopped flowering, it might be better to purchase the powder or extract from a retailer instead.

IMPORTANT: Before You Make Anything…

Please keep in mind that people react to herbal remedies in different ways, and what works well for one person might not work well for another. Herbal remedies are not guaranteed to cure ailments, nor is it a good idea to mix and match them without having a thorough knowledge of contraindications and such. If you’re feeling ill, it’s important to go to a healthcare professional (be that a physician, naturopath, or herbalist) to get their advice before attempting to self-diagnose and/or self-medicate. Herbs have medicinal properties that may have different effects on those who take them, so it’s vital that you ensure that you know what it is you’re treating before you make/take anything.

Additionally, it’s of the highest importance that you know exactly what plant you’re using if you decide to make a tincture, decoction, or poultice for your own use. Going out and foraging for leaves and twigs that bear a vague resemblance to the plant you’re aiming to use can be incredibly harmful, so unless you have total certainty about the plant you’re using, don’t use it. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and pick up a product from a licensed retailer instead.

Commonly ignored (or just unrecognized), these 5 humble plants have incredible healing properties, and you might find most of them growing in your own backyard.

Lawn Weed Identification: Common Lawn Weeds

Weeds are a common occurrence in most lawns and gardens. While many of them are quite familiar, there may be some that are not. Learning about some of the most common types of weeds can make it easier to eliminate them from the landscape.

How to Identify Weed Types

In order to identify weed types and bring them under control, it’s important to understand how they grow. Like other plants, weeds can be annual or perennial. Annual weeds are less troublesome as far as control measures go. While they are known to sprout up nearly anywhere due to seed dispersal, their root systems are relatively shallow. This makes them easy to pull and eradicate, although doing so before they set seed is recommended.

Common annual weeds include:

Perennial weeds, on the other hand, have more extensive root systems, including taproots, making them more difficult to control. In addition, these weeds come back each year, especially if the roots are not destroyed. Some of the most common (and problematic) perennial weed types include:

Lawn Weed Identification

One of the best ways to identify lawn weeds is by looking closely at the soil in your landscape. Many common lawn weeds can be found growing in certain types of soil, making this is excellent way to identify specific types you may have growing in your landscape. Here are some of the most commonly seen weeds:

Dandelions Dandelions are well known in many lawns and gardens – their fuzzy yellow blooms popping up nearly anywhere. While their deep taproots make them difficult to control, they generally spread through their easily recognized white, fluffy seedheads.

Ragweed Ragweed is commonly known by many allergy sufferers. This annual weed can be seen most often during summer (and autumn) months and recognized by its fern-like foliage.

Crabgrass Crabgrass is a homeowner’s worst nightmare, creeping up throughout the lawn. This summer annual lies flat to the ground and has reddish-purple stems (both smooth and hairy). It forms slender spike-shaped seedheads just below mowing height, making it difficult to manage.

Spotted spurge Spotted spurge has a reddish-purple spot in the center of each leaf and the sap is milky (which may cause a rash in sensitive individuals). This annual weed can be pulled up easily in moist soil. Improving the density of lawn grass can help keep it under control.

Common chickweed – Common chickweed is a mat-forming weed with tiny, star-shaped white flowers. This annual thrives when conditions are cool and moist. Mouse-ear chickweed is similar; however, this weed is perennial with hairy stems and leaves, and is more tolerant of summer heat.

White clover White clover is a perennial weed that forms creeping runners and produces white, fluffy-looking blooms. Since this weed is a legume which fixes nitrogen, it is often found in lawns with low fertility. Adding nitrogen to the soil can help ease the population of clover.

Common nettle – This is prolific in soil that borders gardens and open fields. This perennial weed has many varieties, including stinging nettle. While it may look like an ordinary, hairy weed with attractive little flowers, it can cause a very painful sting if you touch it. Nettles can often be aggressive spreaders, with creeping roots.

Broadleaf plantain – Broadleaf plantain is a low-growing perennial. It has broad leaves with prominent veins and may smother lawn grass if left untreated, which generally calls for maintaining thick lawn coverage.

Knotweed Knotweed is an annual weed, common along sidewalks. It usually thrives in dry, compacted soils. Knotweed forms a tough, wiry mat of stems and blue-green leaves with small white flowers. It is often confused with spurge; however, this weed does not produce a milky sap. It does produce numerous seeds, which can be reduced with annual aeration.

Ground ivy – Also known as creeping charlie, this weed is extremely difficult to control, as this creeping plant (recognized by its round, scalloped leaves, square stems, and small purplish flowers) can form large patches in shady, moist areas of the landscape.

Annual bluegrass – Annual bluegrass, also known as poa annua, is a bright green, low-growing grass that thrives in cool, moist weather. While it produces a number of white-colored seedheads and forms patches throughout the lawn, this weed is known to suddenly die out in hot, dry weather.

Weeds are a common occurrence in most lawns and gardens. While many of them are quite familiar, there may be some that are not. Learn about some of the most common weeds in this article.