Black medic may be the first weed that I’ve run across that truly has the combination of features to made it a good weed. (click on any photo to enlarge)
- It is not invasive. That is, in my 20 years on this property, it has never attempted to seriously take over any one spot in the yard.
- It is a legume, meaning that it fixes nitrogen into the soil, has relatively high protein content in it’s leaves and seeds, and has potential for forage for animals.
- It is a good cover crop, even being able to grow in barren locations where little else grow.
- It is low profile, meaning that it blends visually, making it acceptable to fill in those bare patches in the lawn until the lawn gets healthier.
And there are a few other features that make it more friendly.
- It does not have any stickers, ever.
- It has one tap root that pulls up with just a little loosening of the soil. This gets up a whole plant, without worrying about roots left to propagate.
- It has a nice, leafy look to it. None of that straggly weed look.
- It can handle foot traffic decently.
So, while it may have seeds that can last up to 10 years, can germinate almost anytime of year, and might not be something that was planted on purpose, things could be worse. Black medic is considered similar to both clover and alfalfa. Purple medic is one of the names for alfalfa and is a perennial, whereas Black medic is normally just an annual or a short lived perennial. If you think you are dealing with a yellow flowered clover, it is probably actually black medic. Clover is apparently distinguished by white marks in the leaves and Black medic does not have this. Plus, Black medic flowers are smaller.
I ended up writing about this weed now, because I found this plant growing happily in my wide chicken run in spite of several killing frosts. I wondered it I had another horribly stout weed on my hands. The root that I got a photo of came up even though the ground was basically frozen solid in that spot. Now, I’m thinking this is one of the last weeds I will spend time pulling unless it is directly taking up space in a garden bed or in an unsightly location in the lawn near the house. Otherwise, I’m going to let it do it’s thing in those desolate places in the chicken pen until the set-up is improved to allow the chickens to range more safely. Then, I expect they will take care of it themselves.
I will be on the lookout for better photos of this weed and photos showing it in different stages of it’s life cycle in my garden. For now, there are also some good photos on links 2 – 4 below.
a site explaining legumes from a botanical and nutritional perspective
some scientific data regarding seed viability
Good Weed Bad Weed: Who’s Who, What to Do, and Why Some Deserve a Second Chance