Weeds for Sale

On a recent trip to Calgary, we went to a neighbourhood farmer's market. At one booth there, a girl was selling healthy-looking plants in medium and large sized pots. They were not labelled, and we didn't have a chance to stop and ask her about them, but I definitely recognized some plantain plants and other "wild" plants, often referred to as "weeds".

Plantain is considered a nuisance weed in Alberta, and if there's something growing in your lawn that isn't a dandelion, it's probably a plantain. And while the vendor was probably telling her customers about all the plant's reputed herbal uses, she probably neglected to tell them how it spreads aggressively by seed and is difficult to eradicate.

Major Plantain, photo by Sri Mesh

On the plus side, young plantain leaves are considered edible and are sometimes used as a wound dressing. The plants will also usually grow without supplemental water or fertilizer. Unfortunately, they are not very attractive plants, and anyone who grows them will likely find themselves with a lawnful of plantain seedlings and some unhappy neighbours.

However, if you're out to make a few bucks, I suppose a good way to do it would be to grow plants that are easy to grow, from seeds you collect in a vacant lot, and sell them at high prices to unsuspecting, beginning gardeners at a local farmer's market. The moral - don't buy plants on a whim unless you know exactly what you are getting.


  1. It's funny to find this comment.

    My paternal grandmother was Canadian (I am lucky). My dad and his siblings were born in Plaster Rock NB, emigrated to US circa 1920.

    I adored my grandmother who, true to her roots, dug mountains of dandelion greens every spring for the supper table, and taught me after I was stung by a bee that an application of bruised plantain quelled the sting immediately. From screeching 4-year old to happy baby in seconds.
    I've loved plantain ever since. Funny story, a plantain volunteered in a spot in our garden and I checked every few days to make sure it was all right. I intended to cut off the seed stems before the plant could become thousands. However, when I checked yesterday, it was gone and my husband proudly said "I pulled it up and put it in the composter." Boo-hoo.

    Several years ago a plant that I believe is plantain appeared in a prominent spot. I didn't give it plant food but I did water it. It was intriguing, a more or less mound shaped plant whose bossom stems grew about 12 or so inches above the lance-shaped foliage. There was no 'flower' per se, but seeds appeared and I cut them off. The next spring the plant was back and, even without setting seed (or perhaps becaise it didn't set seed the year before) it had doubled in size. YIKES!!! This was too scary for me, and being my Canadian uncle's niece, I dug it out and hurled it without mercy into the composter. However, I loved her, she was very cute.

    Several years ago visiting Maine I became infatuated with a lawn weed that had an orange red composite flower. I'll bet you already know what it was... I loved the color of the bloom, and I was sure that I could make it grow here. I collected a number of seed heads, packaged them in little paper sandwich bags and saved them for a couple of years. I haven't yet planted them. Do you know I'm talking about the red variety of Canada hawkweed?

  2. Thanks for your comment! Of course, I don't want to imply that plants that often grow wild can't be useful or attractive, but it does seem a little silly to pay good money for something really invasive. And my biggest concern is really that people will plant these without knowing what they are getting themselves into - at least you knew enough to prevent it from setting seed!


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