What is this?

I am surprised how many things grow around here in December. I really am. I guess in the back of my mind, I’ve seen these plants before, I just haven’t been paying attention like I am now. That’s true of a lot of things, isn’t it? 

Since we have been trying to grow more and more of our animal feed in an attempt to eliminate buying grains and become more self-reliant, I have begun to pay attention to what is already growing here, and what grows well here that we can cultivate. We have written several articles about the garden produce grown for the animals including corn, sunflower seeds, cow peas, turnips, carrots, beets, comfrey and sunchokes. Now I am finding wild, weedy things that the chickens really enjoy, and the most interesting part of the current discovery is that these weeds are growing in December. You can already tell that I am wondering if they will continue to grow throughout the winter. 

The problem is, I don’t know what these plants are. I have looked in my wild edible foraging books to no avail, so I don’t think they are meant for human consumption. If you know what any of these plants are, we sure would like to know. I have put my foot in these pictures for a size comparison. None of these plants are very big, which doesn’t surprise me because it’s winter. I have numbered the plants for ease of identification. So, tell me, what do you think?

1.  There are not a lot of these plants around. The interesting thing about them is the red veins on the leaves. Since there aren’t very many, I haven’t been picking them to see if the chickens like them…yet.

2.  This plant is fairly small, but coming up all over the place. I don’t know how big they will eventually get. As they get bigger, the middle stands up more off the ground. When they are small, they are flat to the ground. The chickens love these. In no time at all, these plants are gone, leaves, stems, roots and all.


3.  I didn’t get my foot in this picture. This weed is fairly large compared to the others. The leaves are about five to six inches long, and this is the only one I remember seeing. I picked many of them and the chickens liked it as well.

4.  Another large leaved plant. Oops, I know what this one is. It’s a turnip in the garden and the chickens love them, leaves, root and all. I picked some of these greens for dinner last night.

5.  I ran across something in my wild foraging book that made me wonder if this is a wild carrot. There are a few here and there. Any ideas?

6.  This small plant with the scalloped leaves is another one the chickens like. There are quite a few of them around.

7.  This one with the rounded leaves they don’t particularly care for, but they will eat it. This plant gets much larger than the others and there are lots of them. It has some similar characteristics to my lemon balm, but that’s not it.

8.  I have just started to notice these plants, and have only seen a couple. The leaves are rounded and darker than the other plants so far.

9. We have lots of healthy looking dandelions, especially along the porch on the west side of the house,where they get more warmth when the sun is out. We gathered seeds from these last year and started a dandelion patch in the herb bed, so we can harvest and dry our own roots for tea.

These are what we hope will come of these weeds. Aren’t they beautiful? We are still getting pullet eggs from our young hens, with a gradual increase in their production rate. Not fast enough for us, but we’re getting there.

So, in December, when it is cold, and not a lot grows, I become the shadow farmer in the long slanting rays of winter, wrapped in my barn coat. That is, when we have rare moments of sunshine.

These plants have some similarities to other plants, both wild and domestic. Number one looks like a beet, but it’s not. Then number two looks like clover, but it’s not. And number eight almost reminds me of the violets that come up in the early spring, but I don’t think so. Please share with us what you know, we’re ready to learn something new and useful. Pick a number and give it your best shot, while I keep picking leaves for the chickens.

Until next year – Fern

26 thoughts on “What is this?

  1. Your idea on Dollar Weed may be right, Jan. I'll watch it as it gets bigger to see for sure. And I think #6 is probably henbit, and yes, it does have purple flowers when it blooms. Thank you for sharing your ideas, and Happy New Year!Fern

  2. #1 and #3 could both be dock, Susan. I am going to have to see how the blooms look on these two plants as well as some of the others. #7 I'm not so sure about. Thank you very much for sharing!Fern

  3. Hi Lisa.From what I can tell, the leaves on the celadine are more scalloped than the ones on #6 and #8.I do think #2 is Bittercress! Thank you! Since the chickens really like this plant, I was really wondering what it was. Now I will have to read up on it and learn about it's growing habits and nutritional values. If it is worth my while, I can try to collect the seeds and get a good thick patch of it growing somewhere to harvest in the winter. I think the leaves of dead nettle are more pointed and closer together on the stem than plant #7.Contacting the county extension office is a good idea, Lisa. I will have to watch the plant that looks like wild carrot/queen annes lace/hemlock. Once it blooms I will have a much better idea if I need to be concerned or if it is something useful.I am grateful you enjoy your time here, and for your contributions. Have a wonderful, productive new year. Blessings.Fern

  4. Thank you for giving us the information about what grows in California, Sam. It could help some other readers out there. Have fun discovering what your chickens like to eat.Fern

  5. Poison hemlock has red/purplish streaks on the stems, otherwise they do look very much like QAL/wild carrott. You can put on gloves and pull it, if it smells like carrot, it is, if not, it's probably hemlock. I only know this from reading so much about wild carrot because it's everywhere around me and will cross with my garden carrots that I want to save seed from! #8 looks like what we called Dollar Weed in Florida, it spreads like crazy but my girls don't care for it. #6 looks like what everyone around No GA calls henbit – if the stems are square, that's it – and that's why your girls like them, lol! If you leave it to grow it puts up pretty purply flowers. Happy New Year! Jan in NWGA

  6. I think #1 is a type of dock. It comes plain, curly and red veined. #3 is the curly. And #7 looks like some type of mustard. But before I try any wild green I wait for it to flower. That's the best way to check. Queen Anne Lace will always have that little dark purple center flower unlike hemlock. 'course by the time the greens flower they are not much good for us to eat – too tough. Hope that helps.

  7. Hello Fern and Frank,I'm just going to give my opinion on some of the plants (NOT claiming it to be truth, just my opinion) and then maybe you could compare for yourselves. I believe that #1 is dock. I even considered evening primrose, though I'm not positive because of not seeing it better. I think that # 2 is Hairy Bittercress, # 3 I think is another type of a larger dandelion, #6 I believe maybe Greater Celadine, #7 maybe Dead Nettle at a young stage and # 8 Lesser Celandine (related to creeping buttercup(Ranunculus Repens. L . Just my two cents, but if you have any question, your county extension agent should hopefully be able to identify it. Possibly send pictures to your state agent as well and see what they may come up with. You know, put some of those hard earned tax dollars to work! The one that you thought was wild carrot I would watch very carefully. Hemlock looks so much like it as well as Queen's Anne Lace. Hemlock is extremely toxic and will put any livestock to deadstock fairly quickly. If in question, I'd get rid of it. I have a herd of Alpaca and they are very sensitive to \”odd\” plants, so I'm always on the look out in the pastures and the hay we either produce or buy. Thanks for your wonderful blog. I really, really enjoy reading it daily and it's great to know there are others out there that are like-minded in beliefs and enjoy the simple things in life. Thanks again and I hope that you have a wonderful, blessed new year.

  8. Well, you really got me to wondering about this plant, so I went outside and pulled it up. After comparing the leaves and root to a bunch of different pictures, I don't think it's hemlock, thank goodness. The leaf pattern is more like wild carrots or queen annes lace, so I will watch it grow in the summer and see what the blooms are like. I'm pretty sure we have queen annes lace growing here, so we will see. Thank you again for helping me to learn something new.Fern

  9. I don't know what the names of 2,5,and 6 are but I also have them growing in my yard in the winter in California. Number 2 eventually grows white flowers. I never had them until a couple of years ago and now they are all over the yard in front. I didn't think to pick some and give them to the chickens out back. Thanks!

  10. I think you're right! I have looked up the flowers that go with this plant, and they look very familiar. I had no idea, so I am very glad I included this plant. It was kind of an after thought as I went around taking pictures of the other plants I wanted to include. I didn't know hemlock grew wild here. Very interesting. I will be very careful since it is growing in the garden! Thank you again.Fern

  11. You're right, we are very fortunate. When we left Alaska, we chose to live in a place where we didn't have to shovel snow and there is an extended growing season. Now, when we get snow we can clear the porch with a broom. We are very glad to be here. If things get hard and we have to depend on what we can grow, we are in a much better position to do so. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  12. I think #3 is dock or curly dock, Deb. From what I found on creeping charlie, though, I am pretty sure #6 is ground ivy. Thank you very much for sharing. I have already learned a lot from these comments.Fern

  13. Deb H., Thank you for the resource of Southern Forager, it has a lot of information! And I think with her location in Tennesee, we may both be in zone 7, which could be very useful for me, so thank you again.southernforager.blogspot.comFrom this page on her site: http://southernforager.blogspot.com/2014/01/dock-clam-chowder.html I do think #3 is dock, or \”Curly Dock, Rumex crispus\” and it sounds very nutritional for people as well as animals.This site also verifies that #6 is ground ivy, and agrees your identification as well as with anonymous above.http://southernforager.blogspot.com/2014/05/dehydrating-ground-ivy-to-be-used-as.htmlFrom what I can find on bugleweed or bugloss, I don't think it matches #7, though. I don't think we have those types of flowers here. I will have to watch it in the spring to see what they look like.Thank you again for providing a resource that I can use, Deb. And thank you for sharing your time looking up this information.Fern

  14. fern,go to 'southern forager' website.3 burdock? or, as Deb says, dock?6 ground ivy7 bugle? has blue flowers when grown i think also called bugloss? common name usage leaves room for doubt because of mispronunciation and regional usage.deb h.

  15. you are fortunate , you've got things growing this time of year. i'm looking out the window at a foot and a half of snow and 8 degrees.

  16. I think we do have henbit here, but #7's leaves are bigger than the henbit I've seen in the summertime. If I remember right, I picked some henbit in the summer and the chickens didn't like it, so I wondered why it was called henbit. Or, maybe I had the wrong plant… Thank you very much for sharing.Fern

  17. The leaves look somewhat like Rattlesnake Weed, but the images I found of the flower don't look familiar at all. I will have to pay attention the next time #1 blooms and see if they match these pictures.From the pictures I found for Ground Ivy, I do think it is a match for #6. The flowers in the images do match what I have seen around here many times.Thank you for sharing.Fern

  18. Happy New Year! Well you got me going and looking up plants in my Audubon Flower books. I can say with some confidence that #1 is Rattlesnake Weed and #6 is ground ivy.

  19. Thank you, Nursechacha. I looked up images of red veined sorrel and the only difference I can see is the leaves on the plant in my picture look more rounded on the end than some of the sorrel pictures. But, sorrel is very nutritious. I have two starts (not red veined) growing in the herb bed that the chickens got a few tastes of last summer. Thank you for sharing.Fern

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