Sow There! Respect and disdain for the mighty weed, 1-12-17

Common groundsel seems to be doing just fine on death's doorstep.
Common groundsel seems to be doing just fine on death’s doorstep. Heather Hacking—Enterprise-Record
Common groundsel.Common groundsel. Heather Hacking—Enterprise-Record

I’m not a scientist, but I have some skills in observation.

After some careful reasoning I have concluded that the weed common groundsel can produce flowers after being yanked from the ground.

Months ago my co-worker Risa established a compost tub right outside the door to the newsroom. The experiment has mostly been a failure.

Journalists eat the majority of their meals in their cars. When we are working and snacking on deadline, we don’t think about adding our mandarin peels to the bin at the side of the building.

Plus, the plastic bin is covered with a lid. With no water added, the scant food scraps are just as likely to become fossils as they are to decompose.

Recently I decided to lift the lid to the compost after reading yet another press release predicting rain.

I’m easily distracted and realized there were weeds growing in the gravel near the bin. Practicing my best “downward weed” yoga move, I plucked more than a dozen happy weeds.

I had to look up the name of the weed, but I recognized them from my own yard.

Groundsel is an attractive (yet highly toxic) plant that looks like it intends to produce sunny, yellow flowers. Instead, of petals we get those wispy spikes that help spread tiny seeds from here to Gridley.

When I returned a few days later to replace the lid, I noticed the weeds I had plucked looked very much alive. The flowers were intact, and if I wasn’t mistaken, even appeared to have opened slightly.

It makes sense. If you place the bottom roots and the lower portion of a green onion on moist paper towels, the roots will continue to grow. You can later plant the onion in a pot and harvest it when pulling common groundsel.


Plants are survivors. We admire these traits in plants that we actually hope will grow in our yards. Fine Gardening magazine produced an online article ( about reproducing plants through root cuttings. Anyone who has attempted and failed to dig out Bermuda grass understands this process.

I’m convinced that if an asteroid hit the earth, killing most forms of life, the roots of some of these weeds would somehow survive. The earth would be repopulated by common groundsel, slugs and squirrels.

As for the common groundsel, I’ll continue to pluck this plant when I see it near our compost bin at the office. I can’t help myself. However, I’ll give up on the idea that my effort is doing anything more than providing a stretch for my hamstrings.


We live in a modern world and the weeds hated by our grandparents may not be worthy of our continued efforts at eradication.

While researching for this article, I found some blogs on the health benefits of dandelion leaves. One writer pointed out that bees love flowers, and dandelions produce flowers.

Maybe I’ll find some dandelion seeds and plant these in a circle around our newsroom compost bin.


The large amount of rain we received this week has made a soupy mess of our back yards. The big bonus is that it is now easy to yank weeds. You’ll spot them easily, because they are the plants that look fine after a good, long rainstorm.

If you have time, prune winter-dormant plants such as roses, fruit trees, grapes and flowering vines.

The University of California Backyard Orchard website has a wealth of research and tips for fruit tree pruning: When you’re successful and have more food than you can handle, please drop off a bucket of fruit at the newsroom. We might even remember to compost.

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