Friday, April 8, 2016

Weedy wonderland

If they ever discover life on Mars, I would not be at all surprised if it turns out to be onion weed. That stuff is indestructible. However, I am not waking up my slumbering gardening blog to moan about onion weed. No, I have a completely different weed to moan about. 

Its common name is "coffee bush" but botanists more sensibly call it Breynia oblongifolia, and right now it is taking over our garden (or at least trying to). Here's a few photos of the evil weed in action.

I guess they called it coffee bush because its leaves are the shape of coffee beans?

This second snap is more like it. You rarely see one of these things on its own. Usually they come up in numbers, like this.

Fortunately, when small they are very easy to pull out of the ground. That isn't the problem — it's just the sheer numbers of them, everywhere.

Then, last night, over dinner with some good friends, birthday girl Rema described perfectly the coffee bush invasion in her Carlingford backyard. As Carlingford is on the other side of Sydney, at least 20km away, I can only conclude that coffee bush weeds have a masterplan to take over the whole of Sydney. They must be stopped!

Then it occurred to me that I have an excellent Australian weed reference book, so I decided to look up this plant. 

I'm not sure if Suzanne Ermert's book is still in print, as mine was published in 1998. If you can find a copy, it's a handy addition to your gardening library.

Click on the image from Suzanne's book and it should come up bigger, but in case that doesn't work, here's the terrible revelation contained within Suzanne's entry on coffee bush — it's a native plant! So maybe I might have to change my earlier statement so that Breynia oblongifolia is actually trying to RE-colonise Sydney. Who knows?

Left to grow on, it eventually forms a 2m (6 foot) high bush, which produces small green berries. And native birds like berries ...

I haven't exactly seen our native birds flocking around my weed patch feeding on them, so the weedy plants must be perfectly capable of spreading like wildfire without any help from native birds. 

But there you go ... my current most loathed garden weed is a native plant.

PS: why have I let the weeds take over, and why the absence from Garden Amateuring? It's been too hot, that's why. Ridiculous weather patterns lately. Once things cool down a bit, I have quite a few gardening projects to get underway, including a mini-makeover, so weather Gods permitting, expect a few more postings in coming weeks.


Anonymous said...

At last I have a name for these awful weeds. I just can't seem to get on top of these things and this year in particular they are springing up all over the place. Plus they grow at such an alarming rate, almost as if they are on steroids! Even the chickens won't touch them.

Crooked Cottage said...

I have the same problem here in Rozelle - I can't keep on top of the horrible things. For some reason I thought it had a totally different name but glad to know the correct terminology, now I just need to find out a failsafe way to get rid of them!

Jamie said...

In addition to the comments here, a few readers who get my blog via email have also replied to me saying the same thing about these weeds being really bad this year, so it's a Sydney-wide problem, at the very least. I suspect the recent hot weather plus the rain must really suit these plants, and this is their year for a "bumper early autumn crop".

At least they are easy to pull out of the ground, and so all I plan to do is wait for a nice, cool, proper autumn day and then go and pull out every one of the things I can find. I know that won't get rid of them, but I'm hoping that pulling up lots of them, mulching, plus the winter chills, might cut back their numbers.

KL said...

Can you eat the plant? Or the berries? That's the use I've found of my weeds. now in Australia? Shouldn't it be cooling down now as you guys are moving into winter as we come out of it? Or has the weather all over the world has gone topsy-turvy?

Jamie said...


No, it's not edible. And as for the weather we have had our warmest autumn for many many years. And last week Sydney had a maximum of 34°C (93°F) which is the all-time record for an April day. Today is more like autumn, cooling down, but the weeds are loving this weather.

Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

I didn't know what this weed was either! Thanks Jamie. My front garden is full of this weed too! And yes, Sydneys ongoing warm weather has been perfect conditions for weeds.