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weed with large seed pods

Where It Grows: Lawn, landscape, and garden areas in sun or shade

Size: 8-10 inches tall, 12 inches wide

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Type: Broadleaf perennial

Control: Prevent knotweed with a deep layer of mulch or apply a preemergence herbicide in spring. Once the plant grows, hand-pull or spot-treat it with a nonselective weed killer.

Size: Climbs 6 feet or more

If you’ve made it outside on a recent sunny day, you’ve probably noticed the abundance of flowers blooming in gardens, parks, forests, and throughout King County right now. Unfortunately, the noxious weeds are out there, too—many of them bolting, flowering, and even going to seed already.

Below are some of the top regulated noxious weeds to keep an eye out for this month. Please let us know if you see one of these high-priority invasive plants, so we can make sure they’re controlled or eradicated in time! [Click here to go to the King County Noxious Weed List for the whole list!] Report locations and share photos with us easily on our new and improved Report a Weed online form.

Many garlic mustard plants in King County are going to seed. Note the long, skinny seed pods on this one.

First up, weeds already going to seed or getting close. Catch them now before seeds disperse!

1. Top priority: eradicate before seeds disperse

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is a beautiful, witchy plant that begins blooming in late summer and continues through the first frost. A member of the notorious nightshade family, its more famous cousins include tomato, eggplant, pepper, tobacco, and potato. Most members of this plant family are poisonous, and jimson weed is no exception. All parts of the plant are toxic, most particularly the seeds. Potent amounts of alkaloid compounds are present, which potentially cause convulsions, hallucinations, and even death if ingested. And as climate change increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, studies have found that the toxicity of plants like jimson weed only increases.

Having grown up in Virginia, I was intrigued by one of the common names I saw recurring in my plant books—Jamestown weed—and researched the origins. One story simply connects the first New World observations of the plant to settlers in this early Virginia colony. A more famous tale tells of the plant’s accidental ingestion by some British soldiers sent there to suppress Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. After eating some in a stew, the soldiers spent 11 days in a hallucinatory stupor, blowing feathers, kissing and pawing their companions, and making faces and grinning “like monkey[s].”

Browse the Weed of the Month archives >

The Weed of the Month series explores the ecology and history of the common wild plants that most gardeners consider weeds.

The Weed of the Month series explores the ecology and history of the common wild plants that most gardeners consider weeds.

The genus name Datura comes from the Hindi word for the plant, noteworthy since most botanical names are derived from Latin or Greek. The origins of the plant itself are contested—every source I checked listed a different native origin, ranging from Mexico to India, and it now grows all over the world. Not surprisingly, it has found its way into many cultural and medicinal traditions. Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and Native American shamanistic practices all employ jimson weed medicinally or ritualistically. Its seeds and leaves are used as an antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, hypnotic, and narcotic.