Pasture weed watch
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.
HOW TO CONTROL IT
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.