Ragweed is main allergenic antagonist

Kelly Heidbreder
Kelly Heidbreder

Are your allergies kicking it into overdrive? Have you been driving down the road shaking your fist at the yellow weeds along the ditch banks and fields, cursing them for your red eyes and stuffy nose.

Don’t blame the Goldenrod. It’s the ragweed that is causing your sinuses to go bonkers.

The plant that has your nose irritated is ragweed. It has a few other names such as Ambrosia artemisiifolia, bitterweed, wild tansy, blackweed, or my personal favorite, hay fever weed. It is so hardy that it can grow in some of the worst conditions. Lack of food and water won’t make a dent in its seed production. And here’s the scary part: One plant can produce up to 62,000 seeds.

So, that’s the bad news. And here’s even more bad news: Ohio State University scientists say some types of common ragweed have figured out how to shrug off the effects of herbicides.

The scientists have done tests in their lab to discover that over the past several years, common ragweed biotypes have developed resistance to herbicides and that makes them harder to kill.

Ragweed can grow up to six feet tall and you might see it towering over the corn right about now. It isn’t very hard to pull out of the ground. It has a shallow taproot and other side roots. But it can really crank out the pollen. One plant can blow off a billion pollen grains in just one season. The plant is trying to assure its survival while it puts your head through all of the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

The leaves are up to six inches long and have deep lobes that are wider at the base. But one of the biggest differences between ragweed and goldenrod is the flower. Ragweed’s flowers aren’t very showy like the bright yellow puffs at the end of goldenrod stems. They start out as little green flowers, then turn light yellowish green or brown. Sounds lovely, right? These pollen-laden blooms grow in a spike right out of the top of the plant. Goldenrod fans out when it gets to the top.

The best way to rid yourself of this allergenic bad guy is to pull the weeds out by hand in your landscape. If you are really allergic to them, make sure you wear a mask and shower after you weed to get the pollen off your skin and out of your hair. You can also try herbicides, carefully reading the label to be sure they will control ragweed. Some types of ragweed have been able to fight off the effects of chemicals such as glyphosate. You might even have to hit them a couple of times before you get rid of ragweed.

Goldenrod, also known as Solidago, is a native weed that grows wild if you don’t keep it under control. Farmers have been fighting it for years. Some growers figured if they can’t beat it, they might as well join it. So, it has recently been cultivated to be taken out of the ditch banks and into your backyard garden. I’m sure farmers love to see that. It would be like seeing pots of dandelions pop up in your favorite garden center.

Goldenrod has a lot of feathery yellow flower clusters on the end of its woody stalks. It is very hardy, but not usually the cause of your allergy symptoms. So lay off the obscene gestures as you drive by and you might want to keep the air conditioning on in your car until the first frost.

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