Pas­ture weed watch

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - MIL­TON MUNRO

A touch of scar­let you don’t want

It doesn’t take too much to get my lit­tle agron­o­mists go­ing. A whiff of a new weed, bug or an­i­mal and we are off. Some­times we find some­thing that re­ally fires them up, send­ing them on an all-con­sum­ing drive for more in­for­ma­tion, and usu­ally (much to their mother’s dis­may), it’s the mucky side that gets them go­ing. You know, poo, pee and guts. They love the vets I work with.

This time all it took to send the mid­dle agron­o­mist off was a funny name.

“This weed has a pretty flower Dad, what is it?”

“Well Ma­son, that’s scar­let pim­per­nel,” I said with a ridicu­lous French ac­cent. The eyes went wide, the mouth twitched, and BOOM, he was off to in­form the world of his amaz­ing dis­cov­ery. In hon­our of his en­thu­si­asm I thought I would share this weed with you.

Scar­let pim­per­nel (say it aloud with a French ac­cent, go on!) or Ana­gal­lis ar­ven­sis is an an­nual weed found in gar­dens and crops right across New Zealand. It’s na­tive to Europe, North Africa and West­ern Asia, and has ef­fec­tively spread its way around most MIL­TON MUNRO is a soil and plant sci­en­tist for ru­ral sup­ply com­pany PGG Wright­son. He looks at com­mon pas­ture weeds you’ll find on your block and how to deal with them. of the world. Scar­let pim­per­nel is a mem­ber of the Prim­u­laceae fam­ily of plants, oth­er­wise known as the prim­rose fam­ily, which con­tains a num­ber of wellloved gar­den plants and wild­flow­ers. It’s known by a few other names, in­clud­ing poor­man’s barom­e­ter, shep­herd’s weather glass and shep­herd’s clock which all re­late to the abil­ity of the plantl to closel its flow­ers when at­mo­spheric pres­sure de­creases, herald­ing bad weather ap­proach­ing. Neat eh?

As a plant, scar­let pim­per­nel is ac­tu­ally quite toxic. In the right con­di­tions it can even be­come fa­tally toxic to live­stock, but thank­fully it is quite un­palat­able and poi­son­ings are very rare.

I can’t write an ar­ti­cle about scar­let pim­per­nel with­out men­tion­ing The Scar­let Pim­per­nel and Sir Percy, hero of nu­mer­ous books and plays. The English Baron led a dou­ble life: dim-wit­ted fop in ev­ery­day life, but se­cretly a mas­ter swords­man and es­cape artist, res­cu­ing French no­bles dur­ing the revo­lu­tion. Af­ter ev­ery res­cue he would leave a small card show­ing a small flower, the scar­let pim­per­nel.

Scar­let pim­per­nel is an easy weed to iden­tify in the field. It pro­duces weak pros­trate, square-shaped stems that trail across the ground and can grow up and over other plants in the field. It pro­duces small ll green pairedi dl leaves th that at­tachh to the stem di­rectly - no stalks. On the un­der­side of the leaf you will of­ten find some small black dots (glands).

What re­ally sets this weed apart is its strik­ing flower. The term scar­let isn’t quite ac­cu­rate - it’s more of an or­ange-red - but nev­er­the­less it is a dis­tinc­tive and strik­ing flower. In­ter­est­ingly, scar­let pim­per­nel can strike and grow at any time dur­ing the year if tem­per­a­tures are con­ducive to growth.


Scar­let pim­per­nel is a very easy weed to con­trol. Its weak stem means it is very sus­cep­ti­ble to phys­i­cal re­moval so pulling the stems gives great con­trol and is the best op­tion in the home gar­den.

When it ap­pears in crops and it’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to pull it out, then spray­ing is the best bet. Thank­fully it is sus­cep­ti­ble to nearly ev­ery chem­i­cal out there, the only ex­cep­tion is the more spe­cialised prod­ucts, which have no ef­fect.

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