41 Beneficial Weeds and Their Uses

While some weeds can be problematic for garden crops, weedy plants aren’t always the enemies we’ve made them out to be. Garden expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey digs into the beneficial uses of common weeds for everything from pest control to pollinator habitat to edible nutrition and herbal remedies.

beneficial weeds. Close-up of flowering Chickweed plants (Stellaria media) in a sunny garden. Chickweed is a delicate annual herb with small, oval-shaped leaves arranged in pairs along its succulent, branching stems. Its dainty white flowers, each containing five deeply notched petals.


Often the victims of aggressive chemical or mechanical control, weeds aren’t necessarily the ultimate enemies of gardening. A weed is just a plant out of place, but weedy species do have a few things in common:

  1. They tend to spread prolifically by seed or underground runners, making them difficult to control.
  2. They may choke out your crops, causing unnecessary stress and resource competition.
  3. Sometimes, they are invasive and displace native plants.

It’s understandable why many people hate weeds. However, nothing in this world is black-and-white. Weeds are usually wild plants with tremendous resilience to a variety of growing conditions. While we put in so much effort to grow our fragile fruits and veggies, weeds willingly thrive and explode their populations without any assistance from humans.

Ironically, most common garden weeds contain medically-validated health benefits for humans. From herbal remedies to delicious (and free!) meal ingredients, eating weeds helps keep your garden orderly while enjoying the extra nutrition that many of our domesticated plants lack. These wild plants can also help enrich the soil, provide habitat for pollinators, reduce erosion, and attract beneficial insects to your garden. 

Before we start, note that we are not medical professionals; these plants are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with a healthcare professional before consuming them, verify correct identification with an expert, and use them at your own risk.

Let’s dig into 41 beneficial weeds and their uses for the garden or kitchen.

Can Weeds Be Beneficial to Humans?

Close-up of a glass cup of brewed dandelion tea on a white table. There is a bouquet of freshly picked dandelions on a blurred background. Several dandelion flowers float in the tea.
Embrace the abundant benefits of wild weeds, nature’s unsung heroes.

Weeds are prolific wild plants with many benefits to humans. While many consider weeds the enemies of gardeners and landscapers, many have benefits to human and ecological health. From herbal remedies to flavorful garnishes to soil-enriching roots, weedy plant species offer a surprising abundance of aid to humans without needing any growth support or maintenance. 

For example, dandelions are completely edible and have tremendous benefits for your liver and digestive system. Wild clover adds nitrogen to the soil, has tasty edible greens and flowers, and offers medicinal qualities. Miner’s lettuce is a wild weed with a tangy, delicious flavor and high levels of vitamin C. 

There are hundreds of species of wild plants we label “weeds” because they seed or spread their roots aggressively. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful! While you may still need to remove weeds from your garden to protect domesticated plants from competition, you can also find ways to use them to your benefit.

41 Beneficial Weeds and How to Use Them

We spend a lot of time and effort cultivating domesticated plants, yet hundreds of uninvited species grow prolifically in our gardens without any inputs. Some demonize these plants for their abundant growth, but they can also be very useful for your soil, garden, and apothecary. 

Here are 41 common North American weeds with intriguing folklore and many science-backed uses.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Close-up of Dandelion plants in bloom in a sunny garden. The Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a ubiquitous wildflower characterized by its vibrant golden-yellow blooms and distinctive jagged leaves. Each flower head consists of numerous tiny florets clustered together atop a hollow, cylindrical stem, forming a cheerful and recognizable spherical shape. Its leaves, deeply toothed and arranged in a basal rosette, are smooth and glossy.
Discover the surprising benefits of the despised dandelion weed.

It is ironic that one of the most commonly hated weeds in America happens to be one of the most beneficial. The humble dandelion has ecological and medicinal uses. From roots to leaves to flowers, every part of the plant is edible. Dandelions feature in traditional medicine as a liver tonic to help your body cleanse out toxins. The roots are particularly potent and have prebiotic properties that aid in digestion. 

Health Benefits

Pharmacological research confirms that dandelion has science-backed medicinal uses with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, immune-boosting, and cancer-preventing potential. You can make delicious fritters with the flowers or infuse the roots for an herbal coffee substitute. You can use the greens like chicories or radicchio in sautés and pestos for a nutritive boost. Make sure that no pesticides have been sprayed near any weeds you eat before consuming.

Research also shows that dandelions are also an excellent source of nutrition for poultry. If you need to remove these weeds from your garden beds, consider feeding them to your chickens to enhance their digestion and boost their immunity to intestinal parasites and diseases. 

Soil and Ecological Benefits

Dandelion taproots simultaneously loosen up the soil. As a pioneer plant, dandelions can plunge their robust roots into hard-packed clay and compacted areas. The taproot breaks up compaction to aerate the soil, making it more amenable to plants with more sensitive roots, such as vegetables. The quick growth of dandelions alleviates erosion, making them particularly important for sloping and disturbed areas.

In spite of the notorious RoundUp commercials featuring men aggressively spraying their lawns to kill the bright yellow flowering plants, dandelions are not lawn killers. These prolific wild plants can actually help fertilize the grass. Their deep taproots dig down to lower soil levels to pull up minerals like calcium and zinc, making them more available to neighboring plants.

Even more wonderfully, dandelion flowers are an early spring favorite for pollinators. The yellow blossoms are rich in nectar and pollen that feeds over 100 species of bees, butterflies, and insects.

Preventing Aggressive Spread

Nearly every child has made a wish on the fluffy white globes of dandelion seeds. These plants spread prolifically, producing up to 250 seeds per seed head. The feathery seeds easily drift in the wind and readily germinate just about anywhere. This rapid ability to reproduce makes dandelions aggressive weeds. But can they also be our comrades? 

If you cut off the flowers of garden dandelions (sorry kids, no more whimsical wishes), you can prevent them from going to seed while still enjoying their many benefits. If you use a shovel or hori hori knife to dig up the entire dandelion taproot, you effectively stop the spread of the plant and ensure a prolonged supply of the medicinal roots for your herb cabinet.

Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis)

Close-up of a Wild Mint plant (Mentha arvensis) in a sunny garden. Wild Mint is a fragrant herbaceous plant with a distinctive appearance. Its square stems are lined with pairs of opposite leaves, each lance-shaped and serrated. Clusters of small, lilac-colored flowers bloom atop the stems.
Embrace wild mint’s fragrance and benefits in your garden sanctuary.

Wild mint has all the benefits (and many of the same drawbacks) as cultivated mint varieties. Mint spreads persistently, but the aromatic leaves are among the best for deterring garden pests. Wild mint is just as fragrant and edible as domesticated herbal types.

Its fast-growing nature makes it the perfect ground cover, and it can withstand regular mowing and foot traffic. If you let wild mint flower, bees and butterflies flock to the blooms, boosting the resilience and biodiversity of your garden. 

Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea)

Close-up of Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea) plants in a garden with a blurred background. Pineapple Weed is a charming and diminutive herbaceous plant with a unique appearance. It features small, dome-shaped flower heads that closely resemble miniature pineapples. Each flower head is composed of densely packed yellow-green florets, surrounded by a ring of finely divided, fern-like leaves.
Embrace the delightful aroma and charm of wild chamomile.

Often known as wild chamomile, this weed has a lovely tropical pineapple smell when crushed. The flowers are very popular for bees and the plant looks nice enough to keep around as a charming groundcover or pathway border. You can harvest the leaves or blooms for an herbal tea that tastes almost just like regular chamomile

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Close-up of a flowering Purslane plant (Portulaca oleracea) in a sunny garden. Purslane is a succulent annual herb with smooth, fleshy stems and small, paddle-shaped leaves that are green. Its inconspicuous yellow flowers bloom amidst the dense foliage.
Unlock the nutritional powerhouse and culinary versatility of purslane.

Many consider spinach a superfood, but purslane is a succulent weed with five times more omega-3 fatty acids than spinach greens! The weedy rosettes of this annual plant often form mats along the ground and cause huge headaches for gardeners. But if you harvest the succulent leaves and stems, you can make delicious salads, pestos, and chimichurri. 

This weed is also highly medicinal and was used in ancient Rome and Greece for its edible and medicinal qualities. The slightly slimy texture of purslane may sound yucky at first, but it is wonderfully demulcent for the mucus membranes of the mouth and lungs.  

Purslane is extremely rugged, drought-tolerant, and easy to grow. Some farmers have even started cultivating it as a sellable green! After all, it has more nutrients than kale and spinach and is far less susceptible to drought, pests, or diseases. It tolerates more soil salt content than most vegetable plants, making this weed especially beneficial in coastal areas or gardens where the water has high salinity. 

Wild Violet (Viola sororia)

Close-up of blooming Wild Violets (Viola sororia) in a sunny garden. Wild Violet is a charming perennial wildflower featuring heart-shaped leaves and delicate, five-petaled purple flowers. These flowers bloom on slender stems rising above the low-growing foliage.
Welcome the charming presence of wild violets for diverse benefits.

What are the pretty purple-flowering weeds that often emerge alongside dandelions in the spring? These are wild violets, known for their extra sweet scent and uniquely floral flavor coveted by chefs. Embracing the violets in your lawn has several lovely benefits for pollinators, aesthetics, human health, and culinary flavor.

Ecological and Pollinator Benefits

These low-growing perennial plants have heart-shaped leaves and bluish-purple flowers that magnetize bees and butterflies. Wild violets are an important host plant for butterflies, specifically fourteen species of fritillary butterfly caterpillars that exclusively feed on wild violets. Native bees like sweat bees and mason bees also adore the sweet nectar of violets in the cool days of spring when there are limited floral resources.

If you want to see more butterflies and bees in your garden, let the violets bloom liberally along the margins and pathways. You can mow them back with a lawnmower in mid-spring or trim them back to prevent the violets from going to seed and spreading further. 


Violets thrive in partially shaded areas where many plants, like turfgrass, cannot grow very well. If you have a patchy lawn, the deep-green foliage of violets can tremendously improve the appearance of your grass. After letting the plants flower for pollinator food, you can mow violets down to the same height as the surrounding turf for a more lush aesthetic in shady yards.

Herbal and Culinary Use

Violet flowers are extremely popular amongst gourmet chefs. The delicate spring blossoms are great for use as garnishes on salads, delicious teas, cocktail syrups, and vinegar infusions. They have a perfumey, sweet, floral flavor with a very distinct smell

Forages seek them out for their textural, mineral-rich leaves that resemble a cross between sweet peas and lettuce. If you harvest them young, they are tender enough to eat raw. Steam older violet leaves to make them more chewable. The plants are highly nutritious, rich in vitamins A and C.

People have used wild violets as an important medicine for cleansing the blood, supporting the respiratory system, and stimulating lymphatic flow. You can dry the flowers, make a tincture, or crush up the leaves to use as a topical poultice for minor cuts and scrapes. Tea infusions are a common way to drink the flower, and most sources say it is safe to consume violets in large quantities. Of course, you should always do your own research and check with your doctor if you have any concerns. 

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Close-up of blooming Chickweed in a sunny garden. Chickweed is a delicate annual herb with sprawling stems adorned with pairs of oval, opposite leaves and tiny white flowers with deeply lobed petals. Chickweed forms dense mats of foliage, providing a lush ground cover.
Embrace the versatile and nutritious chickweed in your garden.

You may have noticed the star-shaped white flowers and low-growing egg-shaped leaves of chickweed popping up in your lawn or garden in the spring. You may consider this moisture-loving weed a nuisance, but it is far easier to remove than other weedy species on this list. The shallow, fibrous roots are easy to pull up by hand and the plant has phenomenal uses for your kitchen and apothecary.

Chickweed is entirely edible, with tender young shoots that taste mild and pleasant, with a flavor reminiscent of corn-on-the-cob and a texture like lettuce. If you cook chickweed, the flavor resembles mild spinach. The flowers make an adorable garnish and edible decor for salads or butter. The plant is particularly high in vitamin C and is sometimes used topically to relieve itchy skin.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Close-up of flowering Yarrow plants in a salt garden. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a hardy perennial herb with finely dissected, fern-like leaves and flat-topped clusters of small, daisy-like flowers in shades of white.
Celebrate the resilience and health benefits of native yarrow.

This hardy wildflower commonly grows in meadows or roadsides throughout the United States. While colorful ornamental yarrow cultivars are popular in gardens, many people consider the wild white-blooming yarrow a weed. The plant can survive in the poorest of soils and pop up in garden margins.

In some areas, this rugged drought-tolerant flower may be somewhat aggressive. However, I highly recommend embracing this native weed for its amazing soil and health benefits.

Soil Health and Pollinator Resources

Some gardeners use yarrow leaves and stems in their compost to boost the mineral content of garden soil. This Aster-family native thrives in poor soils and disturbed ground, making it ideal for parts of your landscape where nothing else can grow. 

Above-ground, yarrow blossoms are extremely valuable for pollinators. The umbel-shaped flowers attract tons of pollinators and beneficial insects to aid in garden pest control. Honey bees, native bees, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hoverflies are all magnetized to the milky-white clusters of flowers produced by yarrow throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

Culinary and Medicinal Qualities

Close-up of a glass cup of tea with Yarrow flowers. On a wooden table there are several flowering Achillea millefolium plants consisting of flat-topped clusters of small, daisy-like flowers in white.
Discover the ancient wisdom and modern benefits of yarrow.

The Latin name Achillea refers to an ancient Greek myth where yarrow was used by the great warrior Achilles to stop the bleeding of fellow soldiers. Intriguingly, this mythology is surprisingly accurate because the yarrow leaves and flowers are scientifically proven to function as a styptic powder that helps the blood clot. Simultaneously, the antimicrobial properties of yarrow prevent topical infection.

Yarrow is also completely edible. Its flowers and leaves make a nice bitter-tonic tea that supports the digestive system and aids in painful menstruation. Chefs use the above-ground parts as an herb to season savory meats and soups.

Curly Dock (Rumex crispus)

View of a flowering Curly Dock plant (Rumex crispus) in a sunny field. Curly Dock is a robust perennial weed characterized by its tall, erect stems and distinctive lance-shaped leaves with wavy margins. Inconspicuous greenish flowers form on elongated spikes, maturing into reddish-brown seed heads that add visual interest to the plant's coarse texture.
Turn curly dock’s presence into an opportunity for soil health.

The ultra-deep taproot of curly dock is excellent for improving soil structure. This weed thrives in moist environments and often grows in waterlogged areas of the garden or along the sides of ponds. If curly dock pops up in your garden, it’s typically a sign of overwatering or poor soil drainage.

In addition to using this plant as an indicator, the roots can be harvested for digestive remedies and liver detoxification. Digging them up is quite an endeavor, but it will prevent the dock from spreading while offering you a natural herbal remedy for constipation.

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)

Close-up of a flowering Creeping Charlie plant (Glechoma hederacea) in a garden. Creeping Charlie is a low-growing perennial herb with trailing stems that root at nodes, forming dense mats of foliage. Its rounded, scalloped leaves are glossy green and emit a pungent odor. The plant produces small, tubular purple-blue flowers that bloom in clusters along the stems.
Embrace creeping Charlie’s benefits as a resilient ground cover.

The rapid spread of this weed makes it difficult to control in lawns. However, its low-growing habit can also make it a nice ground cover in shady places. Some states have banned this weed due to its invasiveness, but if it is already growing around your landscape, you may want to harvest it for your own use.

Like most weeds on this list, the leaves are edible and nutrient-dense. The high levels of vitamin C made this plant a popular remedy for scurvy in ancient times. The creeping roots are tenacious, but they can add a nice weed-suppressing perennial groundcover to raspberry or asparagus patches, and their purple flowers are a quality spring nectar source for bees.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Close-up of flowering Chicory plants (Cichorium intybus) against a blurred green background. Chicory is a tall, slender biennial or perennial herb with erect, branching stems and deeply lobed, lance-shaped leaves. The plant produces bright blue, daisy-like flowers with fringed petals.
Transform chicory from weed to valuable garden asset effortlessly.

The stunning periwinkle flowers and bitter-flavored roots of chicory make this weed more of an ally than an enemy. Chicory plants commonly grow along roadsides, in disturbed areas, and as weeds in lawns and gardens, but the multiuse benefits make this edible wild plant worth keeping around.

Chicory roots are one of the best coffee substitutes and have found use as a fiber supplement to aid in indigestion. In the garden, chicory provides beautiful flowers and ground cover without any maintenance. The plants work well in boggy areas to help control rising water tables, and they are frequently added to green manure cover crop blends to improve overall soil health and drainage. This weed mineralizes nutrients, enriching the ground for future crops.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Close-up of Evening Primrose flowering plants in a sunny garden. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a striking perennial herb with upright stems adorned with lance-shaped leaves arranged in a basal rosette. Its showy yellow flowers boast four heart-shaped petals.
Embrace the beauty and medicinal virtues of evening primrose.

Weed or medicinal wild herb? Evening primrose is another weed with a history of medicinal use. Research validates that evening primrose has medicinal qualities for humans, including topical use for eczema and improving skin health, and internal use for sore throats, PMS, and breast pain. Evening primrose leaves are used by Native Americans as poultices for skin issues. In 17th-century Europe, the oil extracted from evening primrose seed pods was nicknamed the “King’s Cure-All.”

The bright yellow lemon-scented flowers bloom on the top of hair stems up to 6 feet tall. Blossoms open in the evening and close by late morning. This biennial wildflower adds aesthetic beauty and fragrant charm to any garden and can be left to grow by its own volition on the margins of your landscape or in a forest garden. 

Fortunately, evening primrose is native to North America and is not an invasive weed. It does best in newly established landscapes and won’t persist once the soil is enriched for crops. This makes it perfect for wilder areas of your yard with dry, poor soil.

Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris)

Close-up of Self-Heal plants (Prunella vulgaris) in flower in a garden. Self-Heal is a low-growing perennial herb with square stems and opposite, lance-shaped leaves that form dense mats of foliage. Clusters of small, tubular purple flowers bloom atop leafy spikes.
Appreciate the beauty and healing properties of self-heal flowers.

The adorable, low-growing flower spikes of Prunella are easy to recognize as carpets of purple in moist shady areas and lawns. This perennial weed typically only grows two inches tall, yet landscapers aggressively attack it as a weed. Leaving it in place offers color, beauty, pollinator support, and herbal support for human health.

Self-heal got its name from its use as a topical remedy for farmers and carpenters who hurt, cut, or scraped their hands. The leaves of this mint-family plant can be used topically to stop bleeding, reduce swelling, and promote quicker skin healing. Internally, the flowers and leaves were traditionally used as a sore throat remedy.

Like wild violets, self-heal doesn’t pose much threat to your lawn. Rather, it fills in the shady patches where turfgrass fails to grow. The little purple flowers are delightfully attractive to bees and butterflies. 

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

View of flowering plants St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in a sunny garden. St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a bushy, perennial herb with woody stems and pairs of narrow, oblong leaves. Its bright yellow, star-shaped flowers with prominent stamens bloom in summer.
Discover the beauty and medicinal prowess of St. John’s Wort.

Sometimes called Klamath weed or goat weed, St. John’s Wort is a gorgeous yellow-flowering herb that thrives in open, disturbed areas and is sometimes a weed in home landscapes. It is even considered noxious in 7 U.S. States. But the tremendous science-backed benefits of St. John’s Wort are impressive.

St. John’s Wort is most popularly known as an herbal treatment for anxiety and depression, which dates back to ancient Greece. Modern research confirms these uses as well as its powerful neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects. European pharmaceutical companies sell billions of dollars of Saint John’s Wort-based products each year, which makes it even more ironic that American gardeners work so hard to kill this medicinal weed. 

There are over 400 species of relatives to this weed, most with herbaceous shrubby growth and yellow or copper-toned flowers with 4-5 petals. The extra-long stamens from the center of the flower are distinctly recognizable. The most medicinal species of Hypericum is called perforatum because, if you hold the leaves up to the sunlight, you can see tons of tiny perforations, or translucent holes, in the leaves.

Like all weeds and herbal remedies, you should do your own research and check with your healthcare provider before harvesting and consuming this plant. If you don’t wish to use it in a home apothecary, you can still enjoy this weedy species as an ornamental or pollinator plant. The flowers are very high in nectar and are commonly used for wildlife restoration areas. Chopping off the immature seed heads in late summer can prevent invasive spread. Be aware that the pigment compound hypericin found in this plant is toxic to livestock. 

Wild Blackberry (Rubus spp.)

Close-up of Wild Blackberry (Rubus spp.) against a blurred green background. Wild Blackberry is a sprawling perennial shrub with thorny, arching stems and compound leaves comprised of three to five leaflets that are toothed along the edges. The plant produces clusters of small, juicy blackberries that ripen to a deep purple-black color.
Celebrate the resilience and bounty of wild blackberries in gardens.

Blackberries, especially Himalayan blackberries, get a bad reputation for their aggressive vining spread and prickly thorns. However, they are some of the most robust garden plants around and often out-produce cultivated berries.

The flowers are an amazing pollinator resource and the delicious fruits can be harvested all summer long. Weedy blackberries can be chopped back with a chainsaw or pruners, but they can also be left to sprawl along property borders to provide a natural privacy screen. 

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Close-up of a flowering Henbit plant in a garden against a blurred green background. Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is a winter annual herb with square stems and opposite, heart-shaped leaves that clasp the stem. Clusters of small, tubular, pink to purple flowers bloom at the tips of the stems.
Welcome the culinary and ecological benefits of henbit in gardens.

Sometimes known as deadnettle, henbit is a mint-family weed that is native to Europe, western Asia, and the northern parts of Africa. However, it is widely naturalized in the U.S. The leaves of henbit are edible and commonly used as a salad green in other countries, but Americans typically consider them an annoying urban lawn weed. 

The heart-shaped and scalloped edges of the leaves are uniquely clasped around a square stem and grow low to the ground. The shallow taproot is easy to pull up, so there is no harm in letting some henbit take residency in your garden. They are best harvested in spring and fall for culinary use, as they tend to go dormant or die during prolonged hot weather. The purple-lipped flowers also appear in the spring and fall, providing important nectar and pollen for native bees during the buffer ends of the season. 

You’ll mostly find this weed in cool, partially shaded areas with lots of moisture. It is beneficial to let it cover the ground in these areas, especially if the soil is bare or the grass is patchy due to lack of sunlight.

Marestail (Erigeron canadensis)

Close-up of a Marestail plant. It is a fast-growing annual or perennial herb with slender, erect stems and alternate, lance-shaped leaves that are slightly toothed along the edges.
Harness the medicinal potential and culinary versatility of marestail.

Sometimes called horseweed, marestail is a flowering weed native to America. It starts as a young rosette with hairy football-shaped leaves with toothed edges and matures to a 6-10 foot tall dark green plant with tiny daisy-like flowers and fluffy seed heads that resemble dandelion puffs. Marestail can be difficult to control in lawns, pastures, and disturbed areas of the garden, but it has a few notable benefits.

Marestail was traditionally used as medicine in Morocco for antidepressant qualities. Research confirms that Erigeron canadensis has strong antidepressant effects, as well as anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) benefits. The young leafy seedlings are edible after boiling or can be dried to use as a seasoning with a flavor similar to tarragon. 

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

Close-up of a flowering Hairy Bittercress plant in the garden. Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is a low-growing annual herb with rosettes of deeply lobed, pinnate leaves and slender stems. Clusters of small, white flowers with four petals bloom atop the stems.
Transform hairy bittercress into a tasty, nutrient-rich culinary delight.

The adorable clumps of hairy bittercress typically appear in the spring on the borders of garden beds. Instead of plucking them out as unwanted visitors, consider how you can use this plant to your advantage. However, note that this plant is classed as invasive in most of North America.

This mustard (Brassicaceae) family member has a delicious peppery (not bitter) flavor that has become popular as a chic microgreen in the high-end restaurant world. The leaves are loaded with magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. They taste incredible in pesto!

Seed Dispersal

When hairy bittercress goes to seed, it produces the signature brassica siliques or purple-green toothpick-shaped seed pods. These pods coil up as they mature and then “pop,” spreading up to 1,000 seeds several feet away. Humorously, this is called “ballistic dispersal” because the seeds burst from the plant. 

This makes it easy for bittercress to spread but also easy to prevent. If you harvest the leaves and flowers before they set seed, you don’t have to worry about a large weedy colony. The roots are also edible and taste delicious blended with vinegar as a horseradish substitute.

Burdock (Arctium minus)

Close-up of a flowering Burdock plant (Arctium minus) against a blurred green background. It is a robust biennial herb with large, heart-shaped leaves of gray-green color. The tall stems produce prickly seed heads that are round in shape and green in color with pinkish centers.
Harness burdock’s benefits by harvesting its nutritious roots responsibly.

Though it’s classed as an invasive weed in landscape beds, burdock can be very beneficial as long as you prevent it from going to seed. This plant gets its name from the hook-shaped bracts that form burs around the seeds.

These burs easily catch onto animals and clothing, making the plant a nuisance for sheepherders. It’s also known to taint milk and should be limited in pastures where cattle graze. But if you dig up first-year plants to use the roots, you don’t have to worry about these issues. Burdock can offer some phenomenal benefits to your soil, your health, and your kitchen.

Using the Roots and Preventing Spread

The roots of burdock have been used for centuries as a digestive tonic and blood purifier. The inulin found in the roots is a beneficial prebiotic to feed the “good guy” bacteria in your gut. This biennial plant is best harvested in the fall of the first year. Biennial means the plant takes two years to complete its life cycle: in the first year, it produces only its roots, stems, and a rosette of leaves. In the second year, it will produce flowers and bur seeds. 

It’s convenient that the most medicinal roots are harvested in the first year because this means you won’t have to worry about the burs in the future. However, you will need a sharp, strong spade and some patience to dig the robust, long roots out of the ground.

Burdock roots grow up to three feet deep! While this can make them difficult to remove, it makes them exceptionally great for compacted or disturbed soils in need of loosening. The roots can bring many minerals to the surface of the soil, but you should also be careful to avoid harvesting or using burdock that is growing near roads or toxins, as it can also accumulate pollutants. If you garden organically and this weed pops up, rest assured that it is safe and wonderful to use!

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

View of a flowering Goldenrod plant in a sunny garden. Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is a tall, erect perennial herb with wand-like stems and lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately along the stems. Clusters of small, bright yellow flowers bloom at the tops of the stems.
Embrace goldenrod for its beauty and medicinal benefits in gardens.

As one of the best insectary plants for beneficial predatory insects and pollinators, goldenrod is also delightfully ornamental. The golden-yellow plumes of these weedy wildflowers blanket roadsides and open fields in the autumn throughout the Eastern U.S. If goldenrod pops up in your garden, here are a few things you can do with it:

Goldenrod is sometimes confused with ragweed, but it does not typically cause the allergic reactions that ragweed pollen does. Instead, the flowers and leaves are actually used by herbalists to prevent seasonal allergies as you move into winter. The drying action of this astringent plant is said to help reduce runny sinuses. Some gardeners harvest the above-ground plant parts and make them into fresh or dry teas and tinctures or gargle an infusion of the plant for a sore throat. 

If you don’t want to consume goldenrod, you can always keep it as an ornamental flower or dried flower in autumn bouquets. The golden wands of blooms make gorgeous decor. If left outside, they provide essential pollen and nectar for late-season pollinators to stock up on before the winter cold.

Fleabane (Erigeron spp.)

Top view, close-up of flowering Fleabane plants (Erigeron spp.) in a flower bed. Fleabane is a hardy perennial herb with slender, branching stems and narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Daisy-like flowers with white to pink petals and yellow centers bloom atop the stems.
With its vibrant hues, fleabane graces gardens effortlessly.

These beautiful purple and white aster-like flowers are beneficial for wildlife, pollinators, herbal remedies, and ornamental value in the garden. Fleabane is sometimes the bane of a gardener’s existence and is often heavily sprayed by farmers and landscapers. This is why many fleabane weed species are herbicide-resistant. However, this weed may have more benefits than drawbacks in some gardens. 

To start, fleabane plants are a nice forage for cows, deer, and other herbivores, particularly when the plants are young and tender. The flowers are high in nectar to feed bumble bees, carpenter bees, beneficial wasps, butterflies, and moths. 

Unfortunately, in spite of its name, the folklore use of fleabane for deterring fleas and gnats has not been validated. Historically, people burned sachets of the plant to repel fleas. Still, fleabane adds a gorgeous touch of color and aster ambiance to the yard with little to no maintenance. The showy plants are highly tolerant of drought and don’t mind poor soils.

As an herbal remedy, fleabane is sometimes used topically and internally as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory for headaches, colds, coughs, and fevers. The whole plant can be boiled and blended into balms or salves to apply to the skin.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

View of Pokeweed in a sunny garden. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a robust perennial herb with smooth, reddish-purple stems and large, ovate leaves that are dark green above and purplish-red beneath. It produces large clusters of juicy, dark purple berries.
A misunderstood treasure for pollinators and wildlife.

This weed is another controversial addition to this list since so many people consider it aggressive and problematic. Indeed, pokeweed can grow to a medium-sized shrub or even a small tree if it gets out of hand. The fleshy crown is large and gives way to a deep taproot that is difficult to remove. 

Fortunately, pokeweed rarely spreads across large areas and often grows as a single specimen in isolated disturbed borders where many of our domesticated plants struggle to grow. In these instances, it is worth keeping pokeweed for its pollinator and wildlife benefits. 

Bird Enthusiasts Love Poke

Anyone who enjoys birdwatching will certainly want this shrub around. Mockingbirds, doves, catbirds, bluebirds, woodpeckers, cardinals, and robins feast on the berries. Ruby-throated hummingbirds and many buzzing bees flies, and moths frequently visit the flowers to sip on the nectar.

This wild shrub performs far better than most high-maintenance ornamentals and is equally as beautiful. Must we consider poke an unwanted guest just because others have decided to look down on this native plant? 

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Close-up of a flowering Queen Anne's Lace plant against a blurred green background. Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), also known as wild carrot, is a biennial herb with slender, branching stems and finely divided, fern-like leaves that form a lacy, delicate appearance. Flat-topped clusters of small, white flowers bloom at the tips of the stems.
Discover the hidden virtues of maligned plants like Queen Anne’s lace.

As you read farther down this list, you may notice a great irony: The plants most maligned by the mainstream are often the most beneficial for wildlife, herbal remedies, and garden health. Queen Anne’s lace is no different. Nicknamed wild carrot, this plant is indeed the wild ancestor of our domesticated carrots. The feathery leaves and pretty flat-topped flower clusters are giveaways to its relation to our favorite orange roots.

Beneficial Predatory Insects

The umbel-shaped flowers of this plant are among the best for attracting beneficial predatory insects. Syrphid flies, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and more are drawn to Queen Anne’s lace and then stick around to hunt down pests in your garden. This carrot-family weed is a valuable asset to anyone who wants a naturally bio-controlled garden that doesn’t require pesticides.

Edible and Medicinal Uses

Queen Anne’s lace roots are edible like carrots but must be gathered early in the season before they become woody. The mature flowers make delicious fritters. Many florists harvest stems for use in bouquets. The plant is also used in folk herbalism for easing cramping, gas, and bloating. 

Beware that Queen Anne’s lace is often mistaken for poison hemlock, but the green hairy stems and a purple-colored spot in the center of the flowers are clear giveaways that Queen Anne’s lace is the weed growing in your garden. 

Cleaver (Galium aparine)

View of a growing Cleaver in a sunny garden. Cleaver (Galium aparine) is a scrambling annual herb with slender, four-sided stems that cling to surrounding vegetation with tiny hooked hairs. Whorls of narrow, lance-shaped leaves encircle the stems at intervals.
Embrace the benefits of “sticky Willy” for herbal remedies.

Jokingly called “sticky Willy,” you may have noticed cleavers sticking to your pant legs when you walk by. These weeds are not usually super problematic and have more benefits than drawbacks. The wild plants are traditionally used for diuretic and blood-cleansing properties. 

The creeping annual plants grow low to the ground and attach themselves to things with small hooked leaf hairs. Fortunately, they are easy to remove and make excellent edible ingredients for spring recipes. Prepare them similarly to stinging nettles (boil or dry) to remove the hairiness of the stems. A cleaver-infused tea is said to be highly beneficial for your lymphatic system.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Close-up of a flowering Comfrey plant (Symphytum officinale) in a sunny garden. Comfrey is a stout perennial herb with hairy stems and large, lance-shaped leaves that are rough-textured and deeply veined. Clusters of bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple bloom at the tops of the stems.
Harness comfrey’s soil enrichment power for healthier gardens.

One of the best plants for soil and compost enrichment is comfrey. The deep taproots of this weed are highly coveted in permaculture gardens because they serve as bioaccumulators of minerals and nutrients. They dig deep in the soil to break up hardpans and improve aeration. Adding comfrey to your compost pile can encourage bacterial decomposition to help heat up the compost. The large, flat leaves can be used as a soil-enriching mulch to improve garden beds and smother other weeds.

Comfrey is drought-tolerant and fairly attractive in the garden. It is a nice companion for corn or cucumbers and attracts pollinators with its pendant blue flowers. If you live in the Eastern parts of the US where the plant is invasive, you may want to compost the leaves and dispose of the roots, though.

Oxalis (Oxalis spp.)

Close-up of a flowering Oxalis plant in the garden. Oxalis is a low-growing perennial herb with clover-like leaves and slender stems. The plant produces tiny yellow flowers that rise above the dark green foliage.
Add zest to your meals with nutritious oxalis leaves.

Often called shamrock, yellow sorrel, or creeping wood sorrel, oxalis is a very popular wild edible in the culinary world. The zesty lemony tang of the leaves is amazingly delicious in salads, teas, and sautés. This common garden weed grows in moist, partly shaded areas, especially in containers and greenhouses. Its heart-shaped leaves are very recognizable, but they are sometimes mistaken for clover because they grow in similarly-shaped whorls with groups of three to four leaflets. 

To identify oxalis, look for the distinctly heart-shaped leaflets with a purplish hue. There are many species in the Oxalis genus, including purple-leaved varieties bred of oxalis for ornamental use. Oxalis flowers range from white-and-pink striped to bright yellow and orange. The plants boost soil nutrient availability and provide important pollinator resources. Native bees and butterflies benefit from the copious nectar production in the blooms, but there are some invasive species that populate the Eastern US.

Oxalis leaves are also highly nutritious for humans, providing a healthy dose of vitamin C and soothing, antibacterial qualities for burns and insect bites. Like spinach and beets, the plants contain small amounts of oxalic acid and should not be consumed raw in large quantities. Lightly cooking the leaves makes them safe and enhances the tanginess. 

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Close-up of a flowering Sheep Sorrel plant growing in a meadow. Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is a diminutive perennial herb with slender, reddish stems and arrow-shaped leaves that are tinged with red. Reddish-brown seeds are formed on tall slender spikes.
Enhance your dishes with antioxidant-rich sheep sorrel leaves.

The sour-tasting leaves of sheep sorrel are high in antioxidants and add a zesty lemony zing to dishes. This weed has deep roots that enhance water infiltration and soil drainage in hard, compacted soil. It is also highly beneficial for grazing animals, providing a range of vitamins and minerals. If you don’t want to consume it in your kitchen, you can always let your chickens or roaming grazers feast on sheep sorrel for a nutrient boost.

If you find this invasive plant in your landscape, use it or consume it before it goes to seed to control its spread. Each of the thousands of seeds produced by one plant is highly viable, and controlling its spread limits its ability to outcompete native species.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Close-up of Nettle in a sunny garden. Urtica dioica is a robust perennial herb with erect, branching stems and serrated, heart-shaped leaves that are covered in stinging hairs.
Boost your compost and garden with nutrient-rich nettles.

Nettles redeem their stinging reputation by offering a wealth of benefits to gardeners. If you’ve had trouble getting your compost pile going, this unlikely weed can help! Nettles are known to speed up decomposition in a compost pile. Adding the stems, roots, and leaves of nettle to your compost can enhance microbial activity and enhance the mineral content of the resulting amendment.

Nettle is also an excellent companion plant. They can enhance the growth of brassicas and improve the quality of your tomatoes by preventing the fruit juices from fermenting in hot weather. If you want to enhance the smell and oil content of your aromatic herbs like mint, sage, and valerian, plant or embrace nettle weeds in the vicinity.

Culinary and Health Benefits of Nettles 

Gloves are recommended when handling this plant, as the slight sting can irritate your skin and cause a rash. However, I’ve heard that some people actually use the physical sting for its medicinal qualities. I once worked for a farmer with bad carpal tunnel syndrome in her hands. She would hold her fingers inside the stinging nettle bush and savor the numbing sting of the leaves! 

Other benefits of this mint-family weed include:

  • Whole body strengthening tonic
  • Delicious edible leaves for sautés and pestos
  • Natural antihistamines to reduce allergies
  • Extremely high in chlorophyll and flavonoids
  • High in magnesium, vitamin K, and vitamin B
  • Mineral-rich supplement
  • Diuretic for kidney and urinary tract health
  • Liver tonic to promote detoxification and blood cleansing

The sting goes away when cooked or dried, so you don’t have to worry about these edible and medicinal plants stinging your mouth.

Wild Mustard (Brassica spp.)

Close-up of a blooming Wild Mustard against a blurred green background. Wild Mustard is an annual herb with erect, branching stems and deeply lobed, toothed leaves. Clusters of small, yellow flowers with four petals bloom at the tips of the stems.
Harvest wild mustards for a peppery addition to your meals.

If you notice weeds that look like radish greens, they are probably wild mustards. These brassicas are excellent for protecting bare soil and suppressing other weedy growth. The young leaves can be harvested and used just like arugula. Older leaves are more pungent and intensely spicy. The flowers can also be used in salads and light sautés. Use them before they go to see to control their spread.

Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

Close-up of a flowering Milkweed plant in a sunny garden. It is a perennial herb with upright stems and large, broad leaves of glossy green color. Clusters of small, intricate flowers in orange bloom at the tops of the stems.
Invite milkweed to your garden for butterflies and beneficial insects!

The nectar-rich blooms of milkweed are famously magnetic to butterflies and bees and can aid in pest control in your garden by attracting predatory insects. These wildflowers are vital host plants to monarchs, providing essential nutrients and leafy homes for the caterpillars to grow, pupate, and prolong the monarch butterfly species. But many other insects rely on milkweed as well! 

Beneficial hoverflies rely on the nectar and then zoom over to your garden to feast on vegetable pests. Bumblebees, carpenter bees, and leaf-cutting bees frequent milkweed flowers as a valuable food source. Assassin bugs use milkweed foliage to hide and hunt, and many species of swallowtails and fritillary butterflies slurp on the flowers all summer long.

The young shoots of milkweed are edible and delicious for humans, and the umbel flowers can be used for a diversity of delectable dishes, from milkweed fritters to a floral garnish. Native Americans use this endemic wildflower as a remedy for diarrhea and snakebites. Be careful to only plant native species of Asclepias, as the tropical species (Asclepias curassavica) is non-native to the U.S. and may harm the migration patterns of monarchs. The tropical variety can also harbor a parasite that hurts the butterflies. 

Wild Clover (Trifolium spp.)

Close-up shot of a blooming Wild Clover plant in a sunny field. Trifolium is a low-growing perennial herb with trifoliate leaves and dense clusters of small, globe-shaped flowers of creamy white color.
Embrace wild clover for a healthier garden ecosystem.

Known for its nitrogen-fixing benefits, wild clover is a leguminous plant that enriches soil fertility for neighboring species. Like its pea and bean relatives, clover plants create a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the roots. This minimizes the need for synthetic fertilizers and creates a more balanced soil ecosystem.

Clover is an excellent groundcover and lawn alternative as long as it is contained. Frequent mowing can keep the plants aesthetically pleasing and low-growing, preventing unwanted spread. While it’s not recommended to let wild clover proliferate in your annual veggie beds, the perennial native is excellent for garden borders. The plants suppress other weeds and anchor soil to prevent erosion. Clover flowers and leaves are also edible and medicinal, offering cleansing and detoxifying benefits. 

Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)

Close-up of a flowering Bindweed plant in a sunny garden. Convolvulus arvensis is a persistent perennial herb with twining stems and arrow-shaped leaves that are heart-shaped at the base. Showy white or pink flowers with trumpet-shaped corollas bloom along the stems.
Harness bindweed’s soil-stabilizing power while controlling its spread.

Though it is an invasive and annoying weed, bindweed has an extensive root system that sometimes acts as an important bank stabilizer on steep slopes prone to erosion. This Morning Glory relative has big trumpet-shaped flowers that pollinators go wild for. Some studies show that bindweed extract can have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties for humans. 

Although field bindweed spreads rapidly, you can prevent its invasion in your garden by avoiding tillage and growing robust perennial natives. This weed thrives in disturbed soils and rapidly spreads via underground root fragments. Each time you chop up a fragment, new plants sprout. If you reduce soil disturbance, bindweed becomes less of an issue. While it is worth removing from cultivated areas, it doesn’t necessarily need to be chemically eradicated everywhere if it can provide small benefits to pollinators and eroding soil.

White Goosefoot (Chenopodium album)

Close-up of a White Goosefoot against a blurred background. Chenopodium album is an erect annual herb with branching stems and triangular to diamond-shaped leaves that are covered in a whitish powder. Inconspicuous green flowers form on slender spikes at the tops of the stems.
Enjoy the nutritional boost of goosefoot while controlling its spread.

Also nicknamed lamb quarters, goosefoot is a nutritional powerhouse rich in minerals and vitamins. The raw greens can be used in salads, smoothies, or steamed and sauteed dishes. They are far more nutritious than spinach or kale and pop up frequently in garden areas. These weedy plants thrive without much water or soil fertility and are easy to uproot if they begin to spread. 

The best way to embrace this weed is to consume it as a wild edible and prevent it from going to seed. A single plant can produce over 70,000 seeds, so you want to remove them before the seed heads mature.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Close-up of a growing Mugwort in a garden. Artemisia vulgaris is a tall, aromatic perennial herb with deeply lobed, fern-like leaves that are silvery-green on the underside.
Enjoy its natural insect-repelling properties.

A close relative of sage and wormwood, mugwort has leaves that are hairless on top and silvery or wooly underneath. The plant is celebrated for improving digestive health and aiding in menstrual pains. In the garden, the strong aroma of this native herb can naturally repel insects and act as a companion plant to vegetables. 

Wild mugwort is considered an invasive weed, but the volunteer plants are unlikely to spread over larger areas of domesticated landscapes. You can harvest the pleasantly fragrant leaves for use in teas or sage-smelling incense. However, it’s best to avoid consuming large quantities as some evidence suggests it can cause detrimental effects over time.  

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

View of a flowering Mullein plant against a blurred mountain landscape background. Verbascum thapsus is a biennial herb with a rosette of large, fuzzy leaves followed by a tall, erect stem topped with a dense spike of small, yellow flowers.
Nature’s versatile healer, Mullein, thrives in challenging environments.

Known for its rosettes of soft, fuzzy leaves, mullein is sometimes jokingly referred to as “nature’s toilet paper.” Indeed, this is one of the best plants to wipe with if you ever find yourself without a roll! Additionally, mullein grows in the driest, poorest soils where other plants struggle immensely. The leaves are used by herbalists to soothe respiratory ailments via teas or tinctures.

Mullein has extra tall flower spikes that magnetize native pollinators, enhancing biodiversity and neighboring plant yields. The blooms are highly resinous and burn slowly, so they’re often used as nighttime torches or candle wicks. Use these to prevent their spread in areas where the plant is classed as an invasive species.

Plantain (Plantago spp.)

Close-up of Plantain in a flower bed with wet soil. Plantain is a low-growing perennial herb with basal rosettes of lance-shaped leaves and slender, erect flower spikes. Small, inconspicuous flowers with four petals bloom along the spikes.
A ubiquitous healer, plantain thrives in diverse landscapes effortlessly.

This common weed grows often in lawns and pastures. Plantain is a wild herbaceous plant native to North America and unrelated to the banana-like plantain fruit. It is easy to identify plantain by finding the egg-shaped hairless leaves and slightly pulling them apart. The prominent parallel veins have a stretchy, white, rubber band-like thread between the ripped leaf tissue. 

Plantain has been used for centuries to soothe skin irritations and wounds. The plant also aids in soil stability and has deep roots to break up hardpan soils. The weeds thrive in disturbed areas, making them a great groundcover plant for parts of your landscape where turfgrass or domesticated crops refuse to grow.

Horsetail (Equisetum spp.)

Close-up of a Horsetail in a sunny garden. Equisetum is a primitive perennial herb with jointed, hollow stems and whorls of tiny, scale-like leaves arranged at the nodes.
Ancient yet potent, horsetail enriches both body and soil.

This ancient weed has some of the highest silica content in the plant world. Horsetail is also known as Equisetum, bottlebrush, or foxtail-rush because plants look like slender upright stems with pine-shaped needles poking out in whorls similar to a bottlebrush. When the stems are bunched together, they look like a horse’s tail.

Horsetail’s silica-richness makes it tremendously beneficial for human hair, skin, and nails. It can be infused into water or vinegar for a hair-boosting spray, and some people consume it as a tea or capsule for an internal silica boost. In the garden, horsetail is a bio-accumulator that absorbs minerals and improves soil nutrient cycling for other plants. 

Horsetail is one of the oldest plants on Earth, its evolution predating flowering plants. Instead of spreading by seeds, it propagates by spores. This plant typically only grows in ultra-moist areas near streambanks and ponds. Prevent it in your garden by improving soil drainage and avoiding overwatering. You can also pull the plants before they produce cone-shaped spore heads in the spring.

Knotweed (Polygonum spp.)

Close-up of a flowering Knotweed plant in a garden. Polygonum is a fast-growing perennial herb with erect or sprawling stems and alternate, lance-shaped leaves of dark green color. Showy clusters of small, white flowers bloom along the stems.
Despite its invasive nature, Japanese knotweed harbors medicinal treasures.

Also known as Japanese knotweed, this invasive plant has a really bad reputation in the Northeast. However, it still has its benefits that are worth noting. Knotweed roots are powerful anti-inflammatory and antibiotic remedies that have been studied as potential remedies for Lyme disease. The plant is known to improve blood flow and contain a high amount of resveratrol, which boosts brain and heart health.

Knotweed plants thrive in disturbed soils and form huge tangles of knot-like colonies. They can be useful for preventing erosion and stabilizing disturbed sloping banks. Knotweed is often heavily sprayed with glyphosate and other herbicides because digging it up can inadvertently cause more spread. One potential chemical-free way to get rid of knotweed is to burn it or mow it down and smother it with a tarp for several months.

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.)

View of a flowering Joe Pye Weed plant against a blurred background. Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp.) is a tall, robust perennial herb with sturdy stems and whorls of lance-shaped leaves arranged along the stems. Clusters of small pink flowers bloom at the tops of the stems.
Tall, majestic flowers attract pollinators and benefit gardens naturally.

The majestic domes of Joe Pye Weed’s purple flowers emerge from super tall stalks and make this weed very popular in wildflower and cottage gardens. Though it has “weed” in the name, this plant is actually one of the best native perennials you can plant in your garden. Pollinators go absolutely wild for the flowers and many beneficial predatory insects will hover over the nectar-rich blooms. 

While Joe Pye Weed occasionally spreads via its underground roots into underground areas, it isn’t likely to be invasive. In fact, it’s an important native species in a large portion of North America. Simply snip off the spent flowers before reseeding. The roots were also traditionally used as a diuretic. 

Aster (Aster spp.)

Close-up of blooming Asters in a sunny garden. The plant produces daisy-like composite flowers with vibrant petals surrounding a central disc. These flowers come in purple color.
Wild asters bring beauty and support local wildlife effortlessly.

It’s funny when one plant is considered a popular ornamental while its close cousin is considered a weed. Wild asters are just as beautiful and lovely as domesticated ones. Instead of pulling them, why not leave them to populate your lawn or border beds with pretty vibrant blooms of ray flowers?

Certain species of wild asters are keystone native plants, so you don’t have to worry about them invading the local ecosystem. The flowers are a vital food source for over 100 moth and butterfly species as well as 30+ specialist bees. Another benefit is, if wild asters are growing in an unwanted palace, the plants are very easy to pull by hand before the sticky seed heads mature.

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Close-up of a Canada Thistle plant in a sunny garden. Cirsium arvense is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its aggressive growth and spiny foliage. It features upright, branching stems with lance-shaped leaves that are deeply lobed and covered in spiny hairs. Clusters of small, pink to purple flowers bloom at the tips of the stems.
Thorny thistles offer pollinator support and surprising edible benefits.

Everyone hates the thorny mean thistles, but it is worth noting that these plants still have some benefits for you and your garden. The giant purple pincushion flowers are super valuable for local pollinators and have a lovely smell. 

In spite of their thorny appearance, the plants can be eaten. The leaves are also edible for humans and surprisingly delicious. All you need to do is wear gloves when harvesting and smash away the spines or boil to remove any spiky texture. 

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Close-up of a flowering Borage plant against a blurred background. Borago officinalis is an annual herb with a bushy growth habit, featuring upright stems adorned with fuzzy, oval-shaped leaves. The plant produces clusters of star-shaped, bright blue flowers with prominent black centers.
This is a useful companion plant with edible leaves and blooms.

Borage is sometimes weedy but is mostly planted with intention. It has fuzzy leaves that are edible and rich in nutrients and also can be used as a natural mulch to suppress other more bothersome weeds. The star-shaped blue flowers of borage are extremely attractive to pollinators, making this one of the best companion plants for tomatoes and squash. 

Final Thoughts

Most common garden weeds are wild plants with a wealth of benefits, sometimes for the local ecosystem. Intriguingly, many are edible and more nutritious than our commonly cultivated vegetables. They also flourish without any help from humans (and often in spite of our efforts to remove them).

Embracing the weeds may require a mindset and management shift, but it can prove beneficial in some regards. No plants are all good or all bad. An ecological approach to gardening can include weedier species as long as you have a good understanding of their impact and spread.

native plants in pots. Close-up of Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley' in a decorative pot outdoors. The plant has a dense, evergreen foliage adorned with oval-shaped leathery leaves in shades of deep green. Clusters of delicate, urn-shaped flowers emerge, enchanting with their soft pink hues.

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Can Native Plants Grow in Pots?

Native plants are stellar additions to the garden, but can they grow in pots? Nurseries advertise natives as fussy, but that is not always true. Gardener Jerad Bryant explores which native plants perform well in pots and which ones fail in containers.

Close-up of Pennisetum setaceum rubrum, invasive ornamental grass, in a sunny garden. Pennisetum setaceum rubrum, commonly known as purple fountain grass, presents a striking appearance with its upright, arching stems adorned with slender, burgundy-colored foliage that cascades gracefully. The plant produces showy, bottlebrush-like flower spikes that emerge above the foliage.

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Avoid Planting These 11 Invasive Ornamental Grasses

Adding ornamental grasses to your landscape is a great way to add a tough, drought-tolerant, perennial, low-maintenance, visually stunning plant. These same qualities, however, can make many of these grasses invasive, especially when they are grown outside of their native habitat and have no natural pests, diseases, or animals that would utilize them as a food source to limit their spread. So what makes a grass invasive? Gardening expert Kelli Klein tackles this topic and provides a list of 11 ornamental grasses to avoid.

Close-up of a blooming Blue Butterfly Pea - one of the natural plant dyes. The Blue Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea) is a striking vine with delicate foliage and mesmerizing flowers. Its slender stems bear compound leaves consisting of three ovate leaflets. The flowers, reminiscent of butterfly wings, are a vibrant sky-blue color with a distinctive shape and intricate patterns.

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21 Garden Plants to Use as Natural Dyes

You’ve heard of vegetable and cut flower gardens, but what about dye gardens? Dying yarn and fabrics with plant-based dyes allows you to create beautiful hues and develop a new appreciation for plants. If you’re not sure where to get started, join Briana Yablonski to learn 21 plants you can use as natural dyes.

15 Varieties of Thyme For Your Garden


15 Varieties of Thyme For Your Garden

Are you looking for some thyme to spice up your garden? You’ll be thrilled to know there are many beautiful, low-maintenance thymes to fulfill your landscaping needs. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen introduces 15 fragrant varieties of thyme that you can easily grow with your herbs, vegetables, perennials, and even in containers!

Garden method chop and drop. Close-up of trimmed plants in a garden bed. The plants are trimmed at the base and the leaves are thrown on top of the bed.

Gardening Tips

What is the Chop-and-Drop Gardening Technique?

Gardening has its own language and verbiage, which can sometimes be intimidating, especially for beginner gardeners. So, while you may have heard the phrase “chop- and -drop” you might be wondering: What is it? And why do it? Gardening expert Kelli Klein explains how chop-and-drop can benefit your garden.