Tom's Blog

Monday, September 13, 2010

The UW-Arlington Weed Garden

It is a little late in the season, but any one doing restoration work will find useful the Weed Garden at the UW Experiment Station at Arlington, Wisconsin. I usually try to visit this useful installation at least once a year, as it is a valuable tool for natural area management.

I'm not sure of the history of the Weed Garden, but I know that UW Extension Weed Specialist Jerry Doll managed this every year, and since his retirement, his replacement Mark Renz has been in charge. It must be fairly time consuming to set up, and since no one can fall in love with the plants on display, it may be a thankless job. However, here are my thanks!

The Weed Garden is adjacent to the parking lot for the Events Building at the Arlington Experiment Station. You can Google Maps at Arlington Agricultural Research Station, N695 Hopkins Road, Arlington WI 53911. The best way to reach the site is to drive north from Madison on U.S. 51 until you reach Dane County Highway DM. Go left for about a mile to Hopkins Road and then north until you reach the experiment station buildings. Pull into to the parking area for the Events Building. The Weed Garden is just south of the parking area. Look for the big sign (photo above).

The Weed Garden has dozens of species. They are organized in groups: Perennials, Biennials, Annual Grasses, Annual Broadleaves. The largest number are the annuals, which are of course mainly of agricultural interest. But there are lots of perennials that we need to worry about in our restoration work.

As the photo to the left shows, each weed is marked with an informative sign, giving details of identification and significance.

What I find most useful is the information about whether a weed is perennial or biennial. For instance, I had always thought dame's rocket was a biennial (like garlic mustard), whereas it is included with the perennials.

In fact, there are surprisingly few biennials listed. Here is the list: wild carrot, teasel, three thistles (but not Canada, which is a perennial), garlic mustard, mullein, wild parsnip, spotted knapweed (which I thought was a perennial), and burdock.

Interestingly, several plants which we spend a lot of time and money eradicating are not included in the Weed Garden. These are reed canary grass, sweet clover, and bird's foot trefoil. Why? Well, this shows that the Weed Garden has been constructed not for restoration ecologists but for agriculturalists. These three species are still very commonly "planted" in Wisconsin. (One shudders to think about this fact!)


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