DOVE’S FOOT

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Pasture Weed Watch -

Why is it a weed?

Grows quickly, out­com­petes pas­ture

Where is it found?

Com­mon weed of waste­land, grass­land and open places

Is it toxic?

No, it’s ed­i­ble WHEN I FIRST started out iden­ti­fy­ing weeds in farmer’s crops and pas­tures, I re­ally strug­gled to iden­tify dove’s foot from two other weeds. As a re­sult, this is the first in a se­ries of three ar­ti­cles.

Dove’s foot comes from a rather large clan. It is a mem­ber of the gera­nium fam­ily ( Gera­ni­aceae) and can also be re­ferred to as Dove’s foot cranes­bill, awn­less gera­nium or its Latin name, Gera­nium molle. Gera­nium is Greek for cranes­bill (af­ter the bird), with the fruit of the plant hav­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the long beak and head.

Dove’s foot is a small reach­ing plant, with the abil­ity to grow up to 30cm in height, with mul­ti­ple stems branch­ing out from the base. The leaves form a base rosette, then go up on long stalks. Flow­ers are small and pink-pur­ple.

This weed grows like a weed. It has the abil­ity to quickly cover open spa­ces and grow along banks and hedges, but worse, it also suc­cess­fully out­com­petes pas­ture. It prefers sunny places, and sandy and dry soils are its pref­er­ence. This un­wanted ed plant can also ef­fec­tively grow up to an al­ti­tude of 1000 me­tres above sea level.

Dove’s foot can either be an an­nual, flow­er­ing from June to Septem­ber, or it can over-win­ter, de­vel­op­ing a strong tap root as a re­sult. Flow­ers are either vi­o­let or pink-pur­ple, 5-8mm in width and are either in ax­il­lary pairs or ter­mi­nal on shoots. Be­cause of the weed’s abil­ity to read­ily re­seed, it has a high prob­a­bil­ity of re­turn­ing to your gar­den or pas­ture year af­ter year.

How to con­trol dove’s foot

You could eat it, but if there’s too much your op­tions are sim­ple. Dove’s foot has quite a soft leaf with­out a waxy layer andd you can use glyphosate, but you will need d to add an ex­tra in­gre­di­ent known as a ‘spike’ to the mix to en­sure con­trol. Talk to your ru­ral sup­ply store about the best op­tion, and al­ways read the la­bel. n

Photo: Pan­crat Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

STEPHANIE SLOAN grew up on a sheep and beef farm in the Wairarapa. She is now part of PGG Wright­son’s agron­omy team, iden­ti­fy­ing weeds on a daily ba­sis.

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