Florida Betony Difficult To Eradicate

by Ms. Grow-It-All on May 12, 2011

in Weekly Column Archive

Q: I have a very invasive pest plant in a three-year-old flowerbed. I have found literally hundreds of the rhizomes when digging to put in new plants. A few of the rhizomes have been nearly two inches in length, always with the characteristic ribbing (looking like a fat caterpillar), always white. Can you help me identify it?

A: Oh yes. You have Florida betony in your flowerbed. But you’re in good company. Almost every other gardener in the Southeast does battle with Florida betony, and I’m sorry to say the betony usually wins.

Botanically known as Stachys floridana, it is sometimes called “rattlesnake weed” because the rhizomes resemble snake rattles, and the slightest shard of rhizome left in the ground will sprout a new plant. It is a member of the mint family and has the telltale square stems.

The good news is that it is a cool-season weed, and it will begin to die back as temperatures rise and stay in the 80s and 90s. But it never completely goes away, at least not in my yard, and once temperatures start to cool in the fall, it will reappear.

A product containing glyphosate, such as Roundup, will knock it back, but remember that it’s a non-selective herbicide and will kill nearby plants if it touches them.

Florida betony is edible, so if you can’t tame it you might try eating it.

Upcoming events: It’s not too late buy tickets for this weekend’s annual Tallahassee Tour of Gardens to benefit Maclay Gardens State Park, or to register for Saturday’s Panhandle Native Wildflower Mini-Symposium on May 14 at the University of Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. They are the same day, but the symposium ends at 12:30, so you might be able to do both. And mark your calendar for next weekend’s demonstration gardens’ open house at the Leon County Extension Office. See my website for details on all these events.

Internet radio show: Ms. Grow-It-All on Blog Talk Radio airs at 5 p.m. today (Thursday) at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ms_grow-it-all. This week’s conversation is about lawn care. If you can’t join us live, you can download a podcast of the program.

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