Weed du Jour – Scarlet Pimpernel

Scarlet Pimpernel

Scarlet Pimpernel

Yesterday I was doing some weeding in the garden. Whenever I weed I keep a close eye on what kind of weeds I’m removing. As I was working though a patch of yellow woodsorrel, I saw a weed that I’ve never seen before. It grew low to the ground and had the prettiest salmon/orange blossoms. I grabbed the weed, took it up to the house and got a few pictures of it before it wilted. While I wasn’t certain, I had a hunch that I’d discovered scarlet pimpernel growing in the vegetable garden.

While I’ve never seen this weed before, I’d seen pictures of it in the book Weeds of the Northeast. It’s name had caught my eye since I’ve seen the musical by the same name a number of times. Sure enough, when I checked, this new weed was easy to ID – scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).

Note the Square Stems and Spots on the Underside of the Leaves

Note the Square Stems and Spots on the Underside of the Leaves

Scarlet pimpernel was introduced into the US from Europe and now grows throughout the states, particularly in the mid-Atlantic and the Pacific coast. This low growing annual has a shallow root system. The leaves are small (<1″), opposite one another and oval or triangular in shape. Any petiole that is present is very small. The underside of the leaves of scarlet pimpernel have small purple spots which help to identify this weed. The other identifying characteristic is the square stems of the plant.

Scarlet pimpernel has salmon to brick-red flowers (I know, they should be scarlet but I didn’t name this plant!) each with five petals that appear from June to August. The fertilized flowers produce a small fruit which contain 30-40 seeds each. A large plant can produce more that 12,000 seeds in one season – this is probably why it’s considered a weed.

Given its low profile and shallow root system, scarlet pimpernel isn’t a problem to control. Cultivation will easily limit this weed’s growth and if it’s growing in turf, any broadleaf herbicide should control it. Here in the Northeast, this weed isn’t very common. I’ve been gardening since the ’60’s and this is the first time I’ve ever seen scarlet pimpernel in the garden. It certainly isn’t a major concern.

While I will call scarlet pimpernel a weed, I have to say that this is a really pretty weed. I can understand why it was brought to the US from Europe. But despite its appeal, I’ll be pulling it up whenever I see it in the garden. Pretty or not, I don’t want it competing with the plants that I’m growing. I’m just glad to know what it is and to have finally spotted a scarlet pimpernel!

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2 responses to “Weed du Jour – Scarlet Pimpernel

  1. One turned up in my garden recently too

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