Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rambunctious Ragweed

It's been quite the hot and dry summer here in central Massachusetts.  Trees are starting to show signs of drought stress with leaves turning lighter green and/or showing fall colors early.  Thunderstorms roll through occasionally, but a sustained gentle rain is what is needed most.  Unfortunately a few less desirable plants have done quite well this summer including poison ivy (a topic for my next post) and ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia).  Ragweed is the bane of summer allergy sufferers.  The pollen it produces it light and readily floats about in the air.  Goldenrod blooms at the same time, generally, and is sometimes blamed for the work of ragweed.  The showy yellow flowers must remind people that pollen and flowers go together.  In fact, if you go to Google Images and type in "ragweed" there are pictures of goldenrod mixed in.  Ragweed's flowers are greenish and insignificant.  In fact, the whole plant is camouflaged in green.  Unless you know what it looks like, it can sit lurking in the background unnoticed.
This extremely happy ragweed plant is about 3' tall and equally as wide.  It's growing outside my apartment building between pavement and a wooden deck.  The site gets a full dose of south facing sunlight.  It's pretty obvious that the plant absolutely loves this location.  I've known it was there but didn't pay all that much attention to it until today.  It's positively huge, in full flower, and looks ready to take on the world (I wish I had half of its ambitions).

Recommended Plant:
Campanula latifolia--the Large Bellflower or Great Bellflower, is a fantastic perennial for summer color.  The blue, bell shaped flowers appear as early as late June here in southern New England and the plant will send up flower stalks into September/early October depending on the season.  It grows best in full sun or part shade and will tolerate poorer soils once established.  Powdery mildew can be an issue and the plant spreads fairly readily if conditions are right becoming somewhat invasive.  Luckily, the plants are easy enough to remove and/or replant elsewhere.  This picture was taken in southern Vermont at the end of June.  Recently, on a day trip back to the same location, there were still plants sending up flower stalks; a pretty impressive flowering period.

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