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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
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Friday, May 11, 2012

The Intruder: What's This?

Nobody knows. It is an annoying plant.

It spreads like quack-grass with running roots. Lots of roots. The smallest piece of stringy root will grow a new plant. It has a  herb-like smell vaguely  reminiscent of wild celery, but is not wild celery. I seem to be mildly allergic to it.  This innocuous-looking plant  is pretty enough.

It might be a weird variety of nettle. That's what our favourite gardening zeitgeist Glory Lennon suggested. It has no hairs on the stem,  and seemingly, no any attack equipment built in. Well, unless you count 'invasive'  and  'pretty enough', and then there's always  that herb-like smell vaguely reminiscent of wild celery. 

Here's a picture of the unidentified intruder.  You decide. If you do know positively what it is, please do let me know!

What is this plant?? All of the greenery  in the photo is the same species, hooked together by a complex root system.Notice it is growing around a double layer of old shag carpet placed in a failed attempt  to eliminate any new growth.

 The intruder is irritating to the skin and has proven almost impossible to get rid of.  It's on the north side of the house  and adjacent soil is moss-covered.

 It seems to like damp, cold soil.   This is what the root systems look like, the roots are fleshy, stringy, and tough. It spreads underground, out of sight,  and pops up everywhere just to annoy us.  If covered up, like in the above picture, it keeps growing underground until it is safe to pop up some more, just to annoy us.

The large, complicated root system spreads underground like invasive wild mint does

 Clearly this stuff spreads in the same manner wild mint and other invasive plants do  and  is capable invading and taking over an area --and pretty quickly.

 Here at Incoming Bytes I'm always looking for the bright side.  I'm hoping it's valuable or something!  
The area to the right has had most of the intruder removed but it will easily regrow within a season.  I'll be a major world producer of 'the intruder' by next year.   If I could have a dollar for each one of these plants, I would fill up the bank account in no time, don't you think so?.
Maybe not. It's virtually all hooked to the same root system. Does that mean it's really just one plant?  "That'd be one buck please."
One buck.    That figures.

The intruder spreads with a vengeance.

This intruder tops out at 12-14" in height.  We thought a lot about Glory's clever suggestion that it could be a sub-species of  nettles.

Glory does have a variety of height-challenged common stinging nettles,  that look like these:

Common Stinging Nettle

We too have common stinging nettles in this area, N.W. Ontario.  It is  the swamp kind  --but grows to about  4' tall or even higher, and by the majority,  they spread by seed.
Our  everyday Stinging nettles do look quite similar to these nettles but obviously a lot taller. They  pack a nasty welt that burns like agitated fire  if  a careless hiker accidentally rubs them across bare skin.

By the way, nettles are not all bad, you can harvest, dry, and use them for tea,  or pick the tender growth for cooked greens . Wear gloves if harvesting. Good thinking.  I digress.
What is the intruder?  Anyone know? Is it edible?  Does it have any uses that such as curing incurable diseases? Is it healthy or dangerous?  Will it take over N. Western Ontario by next Tuesday? 
I do hope readers here at Incoming Bytes can help resolve this question.  What is this intruder anyway?  I know I asked already, but I'm in a hurry.  Is it valuable?  I could use a buck.

Is that incoming I hear?


  1. Oh, I think it's poison sumac or poison oak. On google images I saw something that looks very much like this. Check it out: http://www.mama-knows.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/poisonoakleaves1.jpg

    1. Hi Glory, I checked out poison sumac, it has the wrong kind of branch/leaf structure, not much doubt about that one. Poison oak--this intruder doesn't bother Wendy or anyone else at all--and unless there are different sub-species, the leaf is more saw-toothed than poison oak and we've never seen any fruiting characteristic at all. ON first glance, I was surprised, it does look a bit like it, but it would have to be a sub-species of some kind. I'm not convinced ..yet. Thanks so much for commenting and the link,Glory, anything is worth trying! ":) !R

  2. I, as usual, am clueless :) It looks familiar though.

    1. hi 'doyoumeanwhatiknow', it does look familiar to some people, I wonder what I'm missing here. Strangely, it even looks familiar to me sometimes...haha! ~R

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Mac,if it isn't sassafras, I guess I don't have to worry about being up to my neck in root beer, good thing eh? That means I'll have to turn to moonshine.":) ~R

  4. Hi Raymond this looks very familar even to me.. At first glance I thought it was mint.. but obviously not.. My Hubby said it looks very familar and said the name is on the tip of his tongue.. But it wont come out lol.. He thinks it begins with the letter A.. which probably means it begins with Z or H Lol... I hope you find the name of this intruder for it looks set to take over at this rate unless you get some serious root pulling done.
    Thank you again for you wonderful comment Raymond.. I am now free from 'Rust' and all polished and shining once again! :) A good stint in the allotments cleared the rest of the debris from my mind..
    Blessings sent, and have a relaxing Day. ~Sue Dreamwalker

    1. Hi, Sue, it looks familiar to a lot of people, but they don't seem to know what it is. Curious, isn't it? Maybe your hubby is right, it begins with "A" as long as we add a few other possibilities.
      Isn't it interesting how a day in the garden makes one feel shiny and new? Well, tired and shiny and new. Doing mundane work has a way of allowing us to sort out 'difficult' issues..issues we stress about when ACTIVELY worrying about them. When we assign that job to the subconscious, it deals with them much more effectively. Try that sometime, on purpose. Blessings and have a wonderful day! ~R

  5. Glory is right about guessing a member of the poison family. I come from a very long line of people who are not allergic to any of the poison family. We had something similar grow around the lake. Ours, however was significantly larger than yours (soil composition of river silt and continual watering of the lake). It drove the children to hives.

    We have always had a bumper crop of poison ivy (the red kind) and oak and sumac, so this close cousin was no terrific surprise. I have been unable to locate a given (Latin) name for it, but the doctor identified the welts as poison plant.

    It is not impossible to kill. Spray its leaves with salt water or put on a topical poison. Plant will use its mighty root system to kill itself. That is truly the only way to rid yourself of it. Do burn whatever you dig out. Its death from being away from its roots is quite a game of possum. It will come back from compost piles and debris stacks months later when water is added.

    Good luck. It is a bugger to get out of anything. Remember, a weed is a master who learned all the habits of survival, just not to grow in rows.


  6. Wow, Red! Thanks for commenting on this. This particular species hasn't given a rash yet,but I was not aware one could be non-sensitive to some of the poisonous plants! Thanks so much for the suggestions and warnings about it too--it's going to be a tough one to get rid of. You're right, weeds are masters at survival, like WE are. ":) Thank you for commenting! ":) ~R

  7. I am no fan of Monsanto, but their RoundUp product will kill the roots in just about anything very quickly. You spray it on the leaves. Do your spraying in late dusk when the breeze is completely gone to avoid hitting other plants.

  8. I would recommend NOT burning this if it is even mildly irritating. The inhaled smoke of poisonous plants can be deadly. Poison Sumac smoke can kill within minutes. This is not poison sumac, but since you don't know what it is, don't burn it.

    1. Mike, thanks for that advice. I have also researched it some more, it's probably a bad idea to burn it without knowing what it is. I was really surprised to see the warnings against burning this stuff, it really looks like an innocuous plant..just a nuisance. We certainly don't want to find out otherwise. I'm no fan of roundup either, but ultimately I may have to go that way. I wondered if changing the pH of the soil might discourage it too, ie. by adding lime. Thanks for taking the time to comment twice on this--I sure do appreciate your concern. I guess time will tell here. Have a great day! ~ R

  9. I have to go with Mike on the burning. There are strong cautions against burning poison ivy because inhaling the fumes can cause a severe allergic respiratory reaction. In some cases it has been fatal. The other suggestions about salt water and weed killers sound good. Also with that complicated of a root system, it's not beyond possibility that burning could lead to the problem of spot fires. It may not be the type of plant to smoulder underground, but I wouldn't take the risk. Our form of sagebrush here in Wyoming has a complicated root system, and brush fires are always the worst because the fire can travel along the roots and cause brush several yards away to combust while you're controlling the existing fire.

    1. Hi Storm, I did more research on handling these vicious weeds, I was really surprised about the serious caveat on burning. Better safe than sorry, I would love to burn it but now I certainly won't be taking a chance on burning the silly stuff.
      In NW Ontario there is a lot of peat in the soil, too, and fires can travel underground for months--only to come out elsewhere. The things we learn--I did not know that sagebrush was a fire hazard like that. Wow.
      I'm guessing I'll find out sooner or later what this annoying plant is, but at this point, consensus suggests it is a variant of poison oak. That's enough warning for me; caution is in order. Strangely, I don't react much to it other than basic discomfort..no rashes. ":)) Thank you for dropping by! ~R

  10. Looks like a non-poisonous common weed called Ground-elder (Aegopodium bodagraria). I live in the UK, Wales and have to battle clearing it away from my vegetable garden and flower borders. Luckily it doesn't like if the soil is turned too often, but it loves to settle around the roots of perennials.


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