By now, many of you have your garden plots and flower beds prepared and probably have lots of plants in the ground. Perhaps you’ve already started to notice shovings, or potato sprouts, in the garden. With all the recent beautiful weather, you might also have a number of weeds. You can have the best soil, in the best location, loaded with the best seed but if you just let it go, you might grow a few things, but you’ll have a job noticing them in amongst all the dandelions, also known as dipnets, piss-a-beds and wap totties. One of the most loathed aspects of gardening is weeding but some weeds can be beneficial, like tansy (Achillea millefolium) and polly peach (Polypodium vulgare), covered in Twig’s December 2011 entry. This month’s Twig, then, will focus on weeds and names for them in the DNE. If you’d like to see what these plants look like, copy the Latin names into Google images and browse to your heart’s content!
Although Dandelions can be quite the nuisance, their smaller greens are delicious in a salad or boiled and seasoned. Another weed that can be eaten is mile-a-minute, or Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica); its tender young shoots can be used for pies, jams and general baking. This weed, like the others, spreads very quickly but it grows somewhat tall and large and can look quite nice along a fence, border or ditch, especially when it’s in bloom.
Other edible weeds include dock (Heracleum maximum) and lamb’s tails (Chenopodium album), both providing good greens. Lamb’s tails are also known as white goosefoot and lamb’s quarters. These are not the same as lamb’s ears (Stachys lanata), a popular garden plant that is known as Jesus flannel in some parts of the province. This plant can be eaten, steeped for tea, or used as a bandage.
One informant from Notre Dame Bay listed dunch nettle (Cirsium muticum) as a common weed, but this type of nettle is different from stinging nettle. It grows wild and is edible.
Other edible weeds include farewell summer, or fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), that is lovely to look at but it will spread, well, like fireweed, if left unattended. Some might also know fireweed as blood vine, pink tops, rock flower, silk thread, or wild tobacco.
The DNE collection has one citation for Kinnikanick. According to the source, this was a used by the Mi’kmaq in place of tobacco when certain weeds ran out and refers to the inner bark of a Red Willow.
Of course, weeds have other practical applications. The blessed virgin’s leaf (Polygonum persicaria) is a common weed and might be more commonly known as lady’s thumb. It, like many other weeds, has been used medicinally. This plant has been used to stop bleeding. Broad weed, or knapweed (Centaurea nigra L.), may also be troublesome in the garden. Other Newfoundland English names for this plant are French clover or French tobacco.
Feraun is from the Irish feorán curraigh. This weed is also known as gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus). In Newfoundland English, however, feraun is a weed that looks like a daisy with no petals and may also be called pineapple-weed (Matricaria matricarioides). According to one source from St. Mary’s Bay in 1956, it is an “evil-smelling yellow weed”.
Sheep sorrel (Rumex Acetosella) is known as sally sours. The leaves of the plant are sometimes chewed by children until the taste is gone. Other Newfoundland English variants for sheep sorrel are sally cives, sally saucers, sally suckers, laddie-suckers, sweet leaf, and sweeties.
Monkshood (Aconiturn Napellus), a very poisonous but beautifully brilliant blue or purple plant, is typically considered a weed. According to the one available citation in the collection, in St. Lawrence, the plant is known as Queen’s fettle. Another poisonous weed is gold-withy (Kalmia angustifolia), also known as sheep laurel and lambkill in other parts of Canada. There are quite a number of local variations on the pronunciations of this plant name. Check it out in the online version of the DNE.
Do you have troublesome weeds that aren’t mentioned here? Do you know of other edible or useful weeds (that maybe aren’t really weeds at all!)? Do you have photos? If so, drop us a line and we can check to see if there are any Newfoundland English terms for your weeds.