Saturday, April 28, 2007
Sunshine in the Deep Dark Shade
Go to the darkest, dingiest, most inhospitable corner of my backyard and you will find the cheeriest of blooms. The spiky petals are an intense yellow. They sit atop thick, fleshy stems that remind me of chicks and hens or even cactus. There's not much to the foliage right now, but as I recall from last year, the leaves are enormous. They hide the dirt and gravel patch at the back of my driveway where nothing will grow, except this mystery plant.
I set out to solve the mystery this week and it wasn't long before I realized this spunky little plant was bad news. A search of the internet using the key words "yellow blooms in deep shade" resulted in almost immediate results. I had a case of Tussilago Farfara.
Perhaps you know it by some of its other names: assfoot, clayweed, dummyweed. Not exactly inspiring. The Canadian Encyclopedia of Gardening lumps it into the dreaded perennial weed category. And almost everything I have read describes it as "invasive" and a threat to native plants.
Just my luck. I really like those sunny, dandelion-like blooms. Surely there must be some redeeming qualities to assfoot!
Turns out there are, but just a few. Tussilago Farfara is a perennial herb (that's much nicer isn't it?). It has been used throughout history to relieve coughs and respiratory problems. Is that enough to trump its invasive status? What to do? Let it grow or yank it. As to be expected, once it has spread its roots, it's tough to get rid of.
On this gloomy, grey, rainy day, Tussilago Farfara gets a reprieve. I won't touch it for now. It can brighten my backyard corner for a little while longer. But at the first signs of an invasion, I'm going to kick some assfoot.