Q: I planted seeds of what I thought was a milkweed (Asclepias). The plants look somewhat like milkweed, but they are close to 4 feet tall with no sign of flower buds to confirm their identity. There are leaf buds at the axils, which I don’t see on other milkweeds. What is this plant? I would like to have milkweed plants for Monarch butterflies.
A: What you have here is not a milkweed. It is Tall White Aster, Symphyotrichum lanceolatum, and the good news is, it is actually what the Monarchs need more at certain times of the year than Asclepias. More on that in a minute, but first, a few notes and a caution about planting milkweeds.
As many people know, milkweeds are essential host plants for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. We commend people for adding milkweeds in their gardens to support butterfly conservation!
Q: I think I might have giant hogweed on my property, or maybe it is poison hemlock. How can I tell for sure?
A: Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) was found recently in Clarke County, Virginia, and it has raised awareness and concern about the plant – and rightfully so. The plant produces toxic sap that can cause very severe skin inflammation. We have received a lot of questions about it lately.
What you have here is NOT giant hogweed. It is poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), which is much more common. The ferny foliage makes it possible to distinguish it from giant hogweed.
The famous quotation about the certainties of life which we all know includes death and taxes should also mention weeds! They are sprouting up all over. Even the most meticulously tended landscapes are not immune.
Where to Begin?
The first step is identification. You need to know your opponent. Control is more attainable if you know whether it is a grassy or broadleaf weed. Is it an annual, perennial or biennial? When does it germinate? Fall, spring, or summer?