Ask any weed. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Often, it seems, a weed is merely any wildflower or plant growing where someone does not want it to. Here are photographs of five plants often considered weeds in the watershed and some reasons why they were once or still are considered useful. Can you match them up?

1. Each plant may produce up to 40,000 seeds, which are eaten by birds and small animals. Seeds that manage to buried in the soil are covered with a sweet, sticky substance that lures microscopic creatures found there. After these creatures become stuck, they are slowly absorbed by the seed. The plant's ability to stanch the flow of blood (It is rich in vitamin K, which promotes blood-clotting) has been known for hundreds of years. It was even used by German doctors during World War I, when other medications were not available on the battlefield.

2. This native plant's white, berry-like fruit is produced from August through November, but lasts through the winter, when it is an important source of food for songbirds and game birds. It can grow as a shrub or a vine. Its infamous leaves can be dull or shiny, hairy or slightly hairy, smooth, toothed or lobed. It has been used to treat rheumatism, ringworm and other skin diseases, although this is not widespread for obvious reasons.

3. Run into some stinging nettle? Crush the leaves of this plant and rub it into the affected area of your skin to alleviate the discomfort. Parts of the plant, when mashed, have also been used to treat infected wounds and inflammations in humans and saddle sores on horses. The roots, when crushed, produce a yellow dye.

4. This plant has had many uses over the centuries. Its stalks were dipped in grease and used as torches in ancient Rome. Native Americans used this plant's velvety leaves to line their moccasins against the cold. Medically, it has been used to treat everything from bronchitis and gout to hemorrhoids and sunburn. It was even used as makeup: Young girls would rub the leaves against their cheeks, which produced a reddish blush in the skin.

5. Geese stuff themselves silly on this weed, which is sometimes called goosegrass. Humans stuffed their mattress with its pleasant-smelling flowers. Its roots produce a red dye and the Chinese used it to make antiperspirant. Cheese makers have also taken advantage of its ability to curdle milk.

Extra Credit

Each of these plants is a member of a larger family of plants. Which of these is a member of the:
Bedstraw family?
Buckwheat family?
Cashew family?
Mustard family?
Snapdragon family?


1. Shepherd's Purse
2. Poison Ivy
3. Curly Dock
4. Common Mullein
5. Cleaver

Bedstraw: Cleaver
Buckwheat: Curly Dock
Cashew: Poison Ivy
Mustard: Shepherd's Purse
Snapdragon: Common Mullein