RAYLESS CHAMOMILE

NZ Lifestyle Block - - A COUNTRY LIFE -

SO GUESS where I am while I’m writ­ing this ar­ti­cle? Nope. Nope. Nuhuh. Wait. Who said on a train from St Malo to Dus­sel­dorf. Damn. I thought you’d never guess.

I am lucky enough to be spend­ing three and a half weeks tour­ing through Italy, France, Ger­many and the UK vis­it­ing uni­ver­si­ties and at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence, all part of keep­ing my skills and knowl­edge up-to-date. But it is also a great chance to find some new weeds and spot some favourites in a new set­ting.

This col­umn con­tin­ues our se­ries on the com­mon may­weeds or chamomiles. This month it’s rayless chamomile which has un­for­tu­nately eluded me on my trav­els so far, but I am cer­tain you can all find it read­ily at home in New Zealand.

Rayless chamomile ( Ma­tri­caria dis­coidea) is an an­nual weed found up and down the coun­try. It’s orig­i­nally na­tive to North Amer­ica but has done an amaz­ing job of spread­ing nearly ev­ery­where: Europe, UK, Asia, New Zealand and Aus­tralia. In fact I am cer­tain nearly every­one will have come across this weed at some point in time.

How­ever you prob­a­bly don’t know it by the name rayless chamomile. How about pineap­ple weed? It’s of­ten called that on ac­count of the smell it pro­duces when crushed and most peo­ple I train re­fer to it this way.

Rayless chamomile is com­pletely ed­i­ble and can be used in sal­ads if you pick the leaves be­fore it flow­ers. Once it flow­ers, it turns very bit­ter.

It can be tricky to iden­tify or re­ally easy, de­pend­ing on whether or not you can crush it. If you can crush it, it has that dis­tinc­tive pineap­ple smell that gives it away ev­ery time. If you can’t crush it you have a rather more tricky iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. In its veg­e­ta­tive phase it looks very sim­i­lar to the other may­weeds (stink­ing may­weed, an­nual may­weed). The plants ger­mi­nate quickly in the spring and early sum­mer, usu­ally in ar­eas with poor, com­pacted soils such as gate­ways, laneways, foot­paths etc. It pro­duces a long but gen­tle tap­root with mul­ti­ple stems com­ing from it and a plethora of small, fine, com­pound leaves, sim­i­lar to a car­rot.

Rayless chamomile grows to a height of around 15cm and then be­gins flow­er­ing. The flow­ers are a green-yel­low colour but don’t form petals (hence the term ‘rayless’). These are shaped a lit­tle like a pine cone, with one source giv­ing this as the rea­son why it is called pineap­ple weed (as pine cones were orig­i­nally called ‘pineap­ples’).

How to con­trol it

This is pretty easy. In a home gar­den it can sim­ply be pulled from the soil as the root doesn’t do a very good job of hold­ing it in the ground.

In a crop or pas­ture most com­mon her­bi­cides have some ac­tiv­ity but the trick is to spray early – once it’s flow­er­ing it’s bul­let-proof.

Oth­er­wise, just keep a good healthy canopy of pas­ture grasses as it is eas­ily out­com­peted.

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