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My Wild Backyard and Vivariums

Wild Yard Plants
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Just a variety of wild plants and weeds I can find in my back yard as well as some I try to promote to grow in my yard or gardens.

Berries

Mock Strawberry -
Potentilla Duchesnea Indica

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I've been waiting a long time to get the name of this wild strawberry. Its seeds are the red dots with a soft, moist pulp inside and it flowers yellow as opposed to a true strawberries pinkish flower. The leaves look like a strawberry as well. It doesn't have much of a taste but it's edible and the berry and leaves could be added to a pet rabbit or guinea pig's menu, or the berries to your own salad as an interesting garnish. I have a bit of it growing in a couple of vivariums and it does well, slow growing and tall under lighting but lower to the ground compared to all the taller plants. I dug allot of it up around my yard and replanted it in places I don't feel like mowing or pulling weeds and it remains a nice, snug nit of strawberry leaves the grasses don't take over. They grow from what looks like a hard little bulb called a crown (I think) and spread out by growing a long stem (stolons) that will take root every few inches. It isn't a true strawberry and native to Asia.

Pokeweed - Phytolacca Americana

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The pokeweed flower is very small and makes a black berry. I encourage mine to grow by the compost as shade and foliage. While I wouldn't try to eat the berries because the leaves are toxic and I just don't know that much about it, it has been used for medicinal remedies and the berries crushed as a red dye. The leaves are boiled several times before making an actual polk salad, I guess in Memphis ... The birds like the berries on moderate occasions, some caterpillars add it to their diet and butterflies and honey bees like the flowers. As well, it grows fairly tall like a thin, small tree that is very easy to trim. Being by my compost it hosts a variety of critters who like to hang around the branches from lizards to assassin bugs and it makes an ideal low ground shade over the compost itself.
Black Nightshade - Solanum Nigrum

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I greatly suspect it was a stow-away in the soil of one of my miniature roses but it's all over the place now. I'm not exactly sure which nightshade it is but I am very sure it's Solanum Nigrum over Solanum Americanumis. There seems to be a debate on whether or not Black Nightshade is edible but some are used in jams, soups or eaten off the stem.

Leafy Things

Asarum?

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The closest I could get to identifying this ground cover is some type of Asarum (wild ginger). I thought it was at least in the lily family but no ... it's very tiny and just everywhere. It's most apparent in one of my raised beds where it's just taken over but it isn't much bigger than a pinky fingernail and doesn't get taller than maybe a quarter of an inch. It wasn't invasive, just taking up where nothing was planted and makes a shallow root bed. You could just pick up the whole carpet of it. I've never noticed it flower. For the most part Asarums are edible, usually the root boiled to flavor and has herbal remedies.
Marsh Fern -
Thelypteris Palustris

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This is as close as I can get to identifying the fern under my house, by the water barrel. The leaves (fronds) grow individual on long, rooted stems or rhizome, with the fronds folding out to poke through. It seems to me like the actual sori (seeds) are on the edges of the frond leaves looking something more like a browned bit of cedar leaves but I'm not really sure yet. What I thought was a really neat looking vine growing with it is actually coming from the fern like long, viney and smaller oak leaf-shape versions but I don't mean oak leaf fern. I'm pretty sure this viney part is the fertile fronds. I dunno what I'm looking at, all I got down so far is the way they grow on a rhizome and terminology. Thus far it's at least a marsh fern, the closest being Thelypteris Palustris Schott.

Strictly Flowers

Dog Violet
Viola Conspersa

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Usually found in meadows and moist woods, I think I made the perfect condition to find this flower in my yard. The very back is pretty moist as it is with mosses growing in the shade but I had also dug a hole there when I thought I was going to grow tobbacco and filled it with chopped wood from fallen trees and garden top soil. No tobacco but I think these guys are benefiting from the buried chunks of wood and they were a delightful surprise to find. I like the way the leaves unfold as if uncoiling. I can't believe some folks call this one in particular a weed. I transplanted some to see if it will survive the move and maybe make more of itself so I can try it in a vivarium. There were only four and I took three probably spread around by the birds. The plant is edible with herbal remedy qualities. The flower was also once used as a dye to make arrows blue by Blackfoot.

Honeysuckle

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From the empty lot next door, pink and white honeysuckle vines grow along the part of privacy fence I have between me and the lot. It drives me crazy because I'd like to get some of those vines to grow on my side of the fence. Among the host of butterflies and hummingbirds who love this stuff, you can nip off the end, pull the stem out and get a sweet taste of the liquid honeydew within, yourself. The flowers themselves are also edible for humans.

Pink Evening Primrose

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I don't know about you, but this is my idea of a buttercup eh? It's still fun to find some and get pollen on someone's nose with the flower. I see it around often but I haven't tried to dig any up to put in my yard. I'm hoping some might decide to take to my yard anyway. Primrose are used in herbal remedies and the flowers themselves are supposed to be edible but they carry allot of pollen, I don't think I'd try that so much as finding them desirable to attract butterflies and hummingbirds as much as being reminiscent.

Queen Ann's Lace

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Also bearing herbal remedy qualities. I don't see this often as much as in places with the potential to overgrow, like the next door lot. It's not in my yard but it's very pretty and this is about the size and texture of the flowers of the poke weed.

Sensitive Briar - Schrankia Nuttalii

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I gathered some while I was walking one day and transplanted them beside one of my raised bed's where it's still growing. It gets tall without being constantly mowed down but I don't know if this one in particular vines out or produces thorns. The leaves are interesting because when you touch them they start close up as fast as a venus fly trap. They close them up for the night as well. The little pom-pom flowers are very cute and attract an assortment of bees and butterflies.

Spiderwort - Tradescantia Occidentalis

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I thought these were some kind of left over plant from the former owner of my home when I first moved in, like the way I had discovered I had daffodil bulbs after rescuing them from the lawn mower. This grass was growing around our BBQ pit, so I had a chance to see them come up with these beautiful clusters of blue flowers. I still think maybe they belonged to some former garden that used to be here at some point even though they were very difficult to finally identify, looking for something else entirely of course. I dug up all of it and transplanted it. I lined the edge of two raised beds with it, put some more out by the compost and left a few remainders in a pot to keep a closer eye on them for seeds or trying out planting cuttings. Most of the time its just a grass but I love the stuff, it's hardy and easy to grow. The stems, leaves and flowers are supposed to be edible though cutting it is kind of gooy, giving it its other common name of 'snotweed'. Its herbal use is as a sedative among stomach ailments and poultice for insect bites. More recently it's being used for its sensitivity (discoloration) to radiation levels as a detector (kind of like the canary in the coal mine). It's in the Monocotyledon class, with lilies, irises and orchids.

Wild Morning Glory and Bindweed

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I discovered the vines were coming from several different large roots and decided to just let them grow and train the vines to stay around the fencing of the raised bed they came to, by twining them back through. They became too much, so I dug a few of the main roots up, cut the vines off to about half a foot and put the roots in a new spot with fencing for them. It more or less became its own little jungle that attracted tree frogs and lizards as well as the tiny leaf hoppers they were eating, which was also a good source for me to catch and feed in my vivariums as variety. Then it made a couple of pink morning glory flowers. A little later I discovered blue morning glories in my back yard so I gathered those and replanted to vine around a much taller fencing I had. These are actually bindweeds and I don't see what's so pesky about them to other people other than the died off winter vine has as many pod seeds on it as a marigold bush which can look fairly intimidating and the thick root of the mother plant will still come back in spring. They're still as edible as a morning glory though, with herbal remedy qualities. You can feed vine and all in moderation to a turtle, goat or rabbit. They look nice even if they don't make very many flowers. They're easier to just cull back for manageability, because of all the trailers they make, and you can use the trimmed vines as a temporary string such as tying another plant to a garden stick or wrapping a mess of cuttings to toss in the compost.

Tiny Flowers

Blue Johnny Jump Up -
Viola Rafinesquii

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This flower is incredibly tiny, that picture is at least three times the size. An ant could pick one to take home to momma. I noticed it growing in a space between my two raised beds at the side of the house. Not having anything else in particular to grow there, I liked their looks enough to leave them alone. They look almost like the tiniest orchids ever. I used some in my vivariums and it's growing and still comes to bloom in two of them. The flowers are edible even for a reptile but I don't know if this particular Johnny Jump has the same herbal values as the others.

Cow Vetch - Vicia cracca

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In the pea family, introduced. This is a kind of bushy vine that seeds pea pods and has a beautiful purple flower. I like the feel to it letting it grow along the tall steaks in the backyard I had meant for gourds and other spots. For some reason it reminds me of stuff like ancient Rome gardens or something. Vetch provides nitrogen rich soil, is good to feed pets as an ideal grazing plant. Pollinators like bees love the flowers and birds love the seeds. It is also edible, seeds cooked. Leaves and stems boiled for tea. Has some medicinal qualities like being used for galactogogue.

Cranesbill - Geranium Pusillum

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A very common sight in my yard with distinct leaves that look almost like a ragged clover with five-toothed lobes. It gets its name from the fruit looking like a crane's bill. A pretty flower and not that invasive, at least in my yard. The roots, rhizomes and leaves have been used as herbal remedies from mouth sores and open wounds to hemorrhoids with a high volume of tannins (bitter taste) in the rhizome (underground stem) as an astringent and clotting agent.

Crow Poison - Nothoscordum Bivalve

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Also known as false garlic. This plant is not edible and would be poisonous if eaten. It's easy to tell from a true onion because it does not have the same smell if you break it apart. It is in the lily family. Not a very common sight in my yard but the flower is pretty.

Field Madder - Sherardia Arvensis

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This is the 'sticky stuff' in my yard that I usually just pull out. We've often played with it, taking a stem of it and putting it on someone's back or pant leg because it will stick to clothing almost like a velcro.

Ground Ivy
(hairy)

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Another beautiful mini-flower that grow on these long stalks. It's kind of similar to crane's bill so I never really paid any attention to it being any different before. Early Saxons used this, steeped or fermenting beer, before hops was introduced. As well as a Gill Tea, herbal remedies, even as a snuff for headaches and part of a mixture to cure white specks in horse eyes. Despite being considered a ranch nuisance, not many animals will actually eat it and it would have to be in excess. It's kind of interesting because it used to be an important beer ingredient until hops came along, and went right back to weed status. Right now some of mine are flowering and they look more like some type of tiny fly catcher with two little eyes and a big nose upside down.

Lantana Camara

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There is a very large bush of this in the empty lot next door but I don't really care to have any of it. It makes a beautiful flowering but it's very thorny in a very unfriendly way.

Pink Wood Sorrel

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Another common sight around the yard as well as yellow wood sorrel, it gets in my raised beds and I just let it grow there because the spot really has nothing else better to do and I like it's clover looks. High in oxalic acid. It isn't very invasive at all, grows in little clusters, categorized as a bulb plant with tubers. When you dig one up it looks kind of like a clustered, brown and hairy, alien spider garlic bulb - and each of these can be separated and replanted, but only a single sorrel will come up.

White Clover

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They make large beds in patches and are an excellent source of returning nitrogen to depleted soil. If you want to help your lawn, pot plant or garden out in nitrogen production, by all means plant some clover in it. It can be mowed and prefers well draining, rich soils. Not very drought tolerant and prefers cool, moist weather. A pasture grazing food resource, a pet rabbit or guinea pig could have it mixed in their lettuce and peals as a protien. Particularly red clover Trifolium Pratense is used for herbal remedies as a tea.

Wild Onion or Field Garlic - Allium Drummondii

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For the most part I've only seen armadillo's dig it up and eat the bulb. In my yard, wild onion is completely invasive. It's taking up more lawn than my grass and I rather worked hard to level my yard and put some grass back in it. I'm trying to get rid of the mass majority of onions left by digging them up once in a while and laying things like black plastic and boards over it until it dies. Without really liking the idea of using a weed killer with all the other things I'd like to keep that are considered weeds, it's about the best I can do. When wild onions are out of hand the whole neighborhood smells like onions when you mow it. Otherwise, wild onion is more or less a chive and is perfectly edible.

Just Plain Weed

Cockleburr - Xanthium Strumarium

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Cockleburrs have herbal qualities but the immature plant is also very poisonous. Mine are very pesky and over run if I don't catch them and just toss out all the one's I catch all together. They can become bad enough to be very popular in your cat or dogs coat or your pant legs. At places like a beach marsh on the gulf they're even worse and bigger and can be quite painful. They make it impossible to go barefoot around a beach house.

Dandelion

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Dandelions have high nutritional values and herbal remedies. They don't have the nicest looking leaves in the world but the flower is beautiful and it's allot of fun to pick one of the large, white, pom-pom looking stems when they seed and blow them off of it. The flowers also attract smaller butterflies. It can very easily be mistaken between rough hawkbit which has a hairy flower stem while dandelion's have a smooth stem.

Ragwort - Senecio

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Tansy or ragwort contains many alkaloids and would be poisonous to consume but has skin appliance herbal remedies. It makes a sort of rosette shape of the leaves flat to the ground and then a stem rises from the center and flowers. As far as the leaves it can be mistaken for rough hawkbit but the ragwort makes more than one flower bulb on the stem. If you're not raising cattle or planning to eat it, it's not really such a menace to the gardener. Even though flea beetles you don't want in your garden will eat it, so will cinnebar caterpillars and the flower may supply solitary bees and parasite wasps you want, hover flies and small copper (Lycaena phlaeus) butterflies among several more species of butterflies and moths.

Rough Hawkbit - Leontodon Hispidus

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Hawkbit has much of the same herbal remedies as dandelions and look very much the same with flowers that make a pom-pom like head of white seeds you can blow on. The only difference you can really tell from them is the Hawkbit's flower stem has fine hairs while the dandelion's is smooth. When it isn't flowering and just a cluster of a bunch of young leaves lying like a kind of pancake, it's hard to tell hawkbit from dandelion or ragwort.

Sorrel Spinach Dock
Rumex Acetosa

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As a kid we used to feed this stuff to our rabbits over kitchen lettuce. It's a perennial herb with remedy qualities. It's also a source of oxalic acid and is edible to humans in salads and soups with a zingy, sharp taste. I haven't tried to eat any yet myself ... it's wabbit food.

Sow Thistle
Sonchus

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This thistle is easy to mistake between dandelions and ragwort. It grows like a ragwort but makes flowers that look like dandelions and often come to seed looking like the classic pom-pom you can blow on, but much more cottony, truer to its thistle nature. It will also attract a host of other insects. These kinds of weedy flowers will have aphids, which could be a compromise of having aphids on your more desired plants and still keep insects you want like ladybugs. Sowbugs? They're an isopod also known as woodlouse, despite the name, they don't eat sow thistle. *smirk*

Thistle - Cirsium Horridulum

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Horridum is a good name for it. Several types of thistle end up in my yard and are difficult to just pull up without spading or shoveling. It's a very interesting plant but it's also very hairy and thorny and the flower releases flying seeds more like a huge cotton ball. You don't want to get over run by this stuff. Silymarin is contained in the seeds of the milk thistle which is used in herbal remedies for the liver in regulating digestion of fats and stabilizing blood sugars. A few others like blessed thistle are also used for herbal treatments. Sparrows, finches and a few other birds like thistle seed but as far as allowing it to grow in my yard, I'd prefer sow thistle.

Edible and Medicinal Plants

Edible Flowers

Gill Tea

Herbs and Flowers

Spiderwort

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center