Have you seen these weeds?

People call them weeds, unwanted.  But these four wild plants, commonly found along roadsides, vacant lots,  and other undisturbed places, have many uses, medicinal and  otherwise. They are also very good plants to grow to attract bees and butterflies.

They deserve a place in  cultivated gardens, too. These wild weeds are burdock, chickory, milkweed and Queen Anne’s lace—

This is what BURDOCK looks like–


My neighbor has burdock, and  I wish I did. The leaves are so large and expressive. Burdock has a long history of medicinal uses. The burrs that cling to clothes and fur are also the inspiration for Velcro.

There is a book  by Janet Malcolm, portraits of weathered burdock leaves. You can find out more about it  here.  It is a beautiful book, a work of art.

This is CHICORY—


Maybe you’ve spotted the lovely sky-blue flowers of chicory growing along the highway.  It is native to Europe, but has become naturalized in North America. Chicory is tough and resilient; it  can withstand heat and drought, and the roots go deep. It is the roots that people roast to add flavor to coffee.  The plants are kind of straggly-looking, but  quite striking in the winter landscape.  The  seeds are also welcome food for birds.



This is a photo of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom.  Milkweed  is the host plant of the monarch butterfly caterpillars, but it also appeals to bees.  Did you know there are many kinds of milkweed?   You can read more about them here.



Also called wild carrot, bird’s nest, and bishop’s lace,  Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)  is a flowering plant native to temperate regions of Europe.  It has become naturalized to North America, and seems to flourish almost anywhere it is left alone.  The roots are edible when young, and the flowers are  attractive to bees.

Growing these plants can be a challenge–they are  not easily contained  (the USDA lists Queen Anne’s Lace as an invasive species)  and  they do like a lot of sun.

But if you can find a place for them, they will reward you with their wild beauty–as well as  bees and butterflies.

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  • "A weed is no more than a flower in disguise."

    James Russell Lowell

    Are those the flowers of the chickory we see along the roads this time of year?

    Great post.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you, AW! Yes, those are the blue flowers of chickory along the roadsides...

  • I have seen all four of them but only knew the name of Queen's Anne Lace. Thanks for such an informative post!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thank you, Kathy---so happy to share these flowers with you...

  • I guess burdock is what we called "stickers," except there were more vacant lots then.

    When there was a fad for "prairie plants," I asked the landscaper if there were any that didn't look like weeds.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for stopping by, Jack. Yes, we called them stickers, too!
    Milkweeds are native to here. Wild indigo is more shrubby and has lovely flowers and seed pods. Bees love it!

  • Thanks for a very special post. I have wonderful memories of getting my hands sticky playing with milkweed pods as a kid. (There really is "milk" in milkweed. Thanks for the memory!)
    Maybe that's why the milkweed scene in the "Waltz of the Flowers" part of "Fantasia" appeals to me for more than just being right before the cello part.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Thank you for sharing those special memories! I can remember when milkweeds and chickory covered the roadsides.
    There were so many bees and monarch butterflies and caterpillars--and grasshoppers in the summer fields!

  • These are lovely weeds. Thanks for sharing their pictures and their stories.

  • Thank you so much for reading!

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