For my first “suburban weeds” post, I thought it only appropriate that I focus on the place we fondly call “the jump-off”. A couple of blocks away from our house exists a vacant lot where some industrious youths have built all manner of dirt hills, wooden jumps, and other forms of biking entertainment. We visit the jump-off quite frequently, my three year old and I; not necessarily to ride our bikes (though she sometimes does that on the low hills), but to explore. It’s a great place for exploring. In addition to the bike track and jumps, there’s a ditch running through it, that depending on the water level in the canal just to the east, can either be dry as a bone or have enough water in it to get your feet wet.

Like the rest of the neighborhood around here, the jump-off used to be an agricultural field. Probably alfalfa, but also possibly wheat. In fact, there is a small field directly to the south that is still in alfalfa. So, it’s no surprise that there are common agricultural weeds here. But, thanks to the sometimes-present water, there are also some species that are more commonly associated with riparian areas. And then, because it is in the middle of a developed neighborhood, you find your occasional escaped ornamental. Like a tulip I found on one of our forays. I can hear you protesting now, “but a tulip isn’t a weed!” Yet, it is if we take the definition of a weed as being “a plant out of place.” 

The more I think about this topic – suburban weeds – the more I like the term “spontaneous urban flora”.

Because I have a number of years of experience in the field of weed mapping, I feel like I must point out that the list that follows is not a complete inventory of all species present. Rather, it’s a list of the species (generally considered to be weeds) that I’ve noticed, and remembered to write down when I get home, when I’ve been exploring with my daughter. Additionally, I don’t have photos of all the weeds, but as we continue to visit the jump-off I’ll add more photos and/or names to the list as I notice more species.

Species present:

  • blue mustard (Chorispora tenella)
  • field pennycress (Thlapsi arvense)
  • downy brome (Bromus tectorum)
  • curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)
  • curly dock (Rumex crispus)
  • Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium)
  • hoary cress (Cardaria draba)
  • clasping pepperweed (Lepidium perfoliatum)
  • dandelion (Taraxacum vulgare)
  • kochia (Kochia scoparia)
  • white campion (Silene latifolia)