Welcome to the wonderful world of weedy plants!
Weeds are superevolutionary products of human civilizations and activities - without humans there would be no weeds, just wild plants.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Iowa's old cocklebur farms

From an article in New York Times, about how the high crop prices are making farmers plow and put golfcourses and old, unused farmland into agriculture again:
In Iowa, the nation’s biggest producer of corn and soybeans, farmers insist that they are simply getting more value from their land. Darrell Coddington, a farmer who runs an excavation business, has spent much of the past year clearing additional land in the hilly and wooded southern part of the state, including places that used to be left alone and derided as a “cocklebur farm,” referring to the thorny weed.
Cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) is a very interesting-looking plant. It is in the Asteraceae, the sunflower family, but the fruits are covered with horrid, sharp spines (easy to get around if you are stuck to an animal!). It used to be the perfect food for the now extinct parrots of the South; now however, it is an invasive weed that loves rich and often sandy soil.  It is a nasty thing to step on and is also toxic.  Any good features? Sure, it makes a yellow dye and it repels pests from crop plants close to it.

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