10 Tall Weeds With Thick Stalks That Might Invade Your Garden
Tall weeds with thick stalks are invading your yard or garden and don’t know what kind of plants are those? I made a list of plants with thick and tall stems to help you identify the intruders.
A few days ago, my friend has asked me if I can help him identify a plant with a thick stalk and large leaves that was growing in a corner of his yard. He didn’t know if that was a weed or some kind of tree. I didn’t know either because it was not a plant I’ve seen before.
Fortunately, I had a few apps for identifying plants installed on my phone and I was able to quickly find out the name of the weed by simply taking a photo of one of its leaves. That also gave me the idea of making a list of tall weeds with thick stalks that sometimes grow unexpectedly on someone’s property.
Some of these plants have more particularities, hence, they are easier to identify in any life stage. Others are harder to recognize when they are young.
While a blooming agave is probably the champion when it comes to plants with tall thick stalks, I have omitted from including it in the following list because it’s not usually a plant that simply pops in someone’s yard out of the blue.
So, here are some mysterious plants that could match this description.
1. Paulownia Tree
I have included the paulownia tree first because this was the mysterious weed growing in the yard of my friend.
Paulownia Tree Saplings by Bazsek / CC BY-SA
Paulownia is one of the fastest-growing trees in the world and belongs to a genus of about 17 species of flowering plants in the family Paulowniaceae.
This plant is native to central and western China and is often used as a decorative plant in landscaping across the world.
In several regions of the US, shrubs from the paulownia genus are considered an invasive species due to their fast-growing nature. Hence, it is not unusual for these trees to expand even five meters in a single year.
When are only saplings, the paulownia tree can be easily mistaken with a gigantic weed if you’ve never seen one before. It has a thick and tall stalk and large flat green leaves.
When it matures, paulownia grows into a lovely flowering tree. Yet, during winter, it makes some brown fruits, which many find ugly.
Pokeweed is a perennial weed in the Phytolaccaceae family, native to eastern North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast, as well as to some European and Asian countries.
This plant has several other names such as phytolacca Americana, dragon berries, American pokeweed, or poke sallet.
Pokeweed holds a potent toxin, which is extremely poisonous to humans, pets, cattle, and other farm animals. Its fruits look like berries but are also very toxic. However, there are some species of birds and small animals that are immune to this poisonous substance and consume them.
The easiest way to identify pokeweed is by its fruits that look like berries, or similar to a black grape with small rounded grains.
When pokeweed doesn’t carry fruits, you should be able to recognize this plant by its thick purple stems with green-to-white flowers or lance-shaped green leaves.
Because its ability to spread quickly, pokeweed is considered an invasive and harmful weed. It can form dense bushes and overwhelm other plants. Plus, due to its toxicity, it’s a real threat for children, pets, and livestock.
Common sunflower is a large annual herbaceous flowering plant generally grown for its seeds. It is a part of Helianthus, a genus including about 70 species of plants.
Sunflowers by Anna Anichkova / CC BY-SA
Everyone has chewed sunflower seeds, but there are many people that cannot identify a sunflower plant without seeing the well-known yellow flowering head that turns after the sun.
There are multiple varieties of sunflowers, some with varying colors for the flower heads and different sizes.
You can usually identify the Sunflower plant by its stem, large rough heart-shaped leaves, and flowering head. The stalk is thick, has a green color, grows upright, and is usually covered by a thin coat of hair.
Besides the production of oil and food, some species of sunflowers are also used as ornamental plants in landscaping.
Ricinus (Ricinus communis), also known as the castor bean or castor oil plant, is a fast-growing perennial shrub in the spurge family. It is a plant native to Asia and Africa and grown as an ornamental plant in many parts of the world. Ricinus can reach the size of a small tree, about 12 m (40 ft), in hot climates.
Ricinus communis by Emőke Dénes / CC BY-SA
Despite its pleasant appearance, Ricinus is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. All its parts, especially the beans-like-seeds, contain a deadly naturally occurring toxin called “ricin.” Ricin can be lethal for both humans and animals.
You can typically recognize this plant by the following particularities.
Ricinus has a thick stalk, which is usually of a purple-to-reddish color. It has large glossy leaves, similar in shape with an open palm that has about 5 to 11 fingers, with prominent centered veins that unite with the leaf stem. The color of the leaves is typically dark reddish-purple when the plant is young and gradually changes to a dark green when the plant reaches maturity.
Its fruits are spiny green or reddish-purple capsules that contain large, oval, bean-like seeds with different brownish patterns.
Castor bean is considered an invasive plant in several countries, particularly in the tropics.
5. Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed, also known as Asian knotweed, Japanese bamboo, or Reynoutria japonica, is a large perennial plant indigenous to Japan, China, and Korea. It was assumedly introduced to the United States and Europe in the 1800s as an ornamental plant. It became trendy due to its bamboo look and because it didn’t have extraordinarily demanding growing requirements.
Japanese Knotweed by Anneli Salo / CC BY-SA
The identification of Japanese knotweed is not always straightforward, especially when they are young. Several other plants can be easily mistaken for being knotweed because of the similar appearance of leaves and stems.
A mature plant has hollow robust stems with distinct raised nodes similar to those of bamboo. These can grow up to 13 ft (4 m) each season.
The leaves of Japanese knotweed are green, oval with a truncated base. The flowers are tiny, white or cream, produced in upright racemes in late summer and early fall.
Japanese knotweed is considered an invasive plant and has been listed on the noxious weeds list of many US states due to the danger it poses for the native plants. It likes to grow in dense bushes, crowding out the native plants and eventually killing them.
6. Wild Lettuce
Wild lettuce is an annual or biennial herb in the family of Asteraceae (same family as dandelions). It is widely considered a weed and is the closest wild relative of cultivated lettuce.
Wild Lettuce by T.Voekler / CC BY-SA
Wild lettuce is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, but has quickly spread almost everywhere. There are several varieties of wild lettuce. Two of the most popular are Lactuca virosa and Lactuca serriola.
This weed can reach an impressive size about the maturity time. In the proper climate, it can even grow to 7 or 8 feet (2 – 2.5 m) in height.
The plant develops a single tall stem which becomes more robust once with age. Depending on the variety, it can be sometimes covered with thin spines. The color of the stem usually varies from one species to another, and it can be greyish-green, green, purple, or brownish-red.
The wild lettuce leaves are green, elongated, and have serrated edges (excepting the ones at the bottom of the plant). On the inferior side, they have a strengthened vein along the midline that has spikes on its entire length.
Wild lettuce contains a milky sap that has analgesic and sedative effects.
7. Giant Hogweed
Giant hogweed (scientific name Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a perennial flowering shrub in the family of Apiaceae (same family as carrots). This plant is indigenous to the western Caucasus region of Eurasia. Just like many other weeds, Giant Hogweed has spread as an ornamental plant to numerous countries, and it is now on the noxious weed list of many.
Giant Hogweed by Mbdortmund / GFDL 1.2
The name “giant hogweed” gives us an excellent representation concerning the growth potential of this plant. Hence, if it has the proper environmental conditions, it can reach even more than 18 ft (5.5 m) in height.
Giant hogweed has a stiff stalk that can grow more than 4 m (13 ft) high and up to 10 cm (3.9 in) in diameter. A mature plant has gigantic incised and intensely lobed leaves that can reach between 1 and 1.5 m (3-4 ft) wide.
This plant is also easily identifiable when it’s in the blooming period due to its sizeable white inflorescence that consists of multiple short flower stalks that spread from a central point, similar to an umbrella.
Because it looks very similar to cow parsnip, a plant from the same family, these two are usually easily mistaken with each other. The difference between these two plants is that giant hogweed grows larger than cow parsnip, has sharper serrated leaves, and has purplish spots on the stalk.
8. Creeping Thistle
Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the family of Asteraceae with origins in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It later spread to many other regions of the globe.
Creeping Thistle by AnRo0002 / CC0
This plant can typically grow up to 1.5 m (5 ft) height, forming vast clonal colonies from the expanded root system that send up several vertical shoots throughout the growing season. Its stalks are smooth, green, branched, and mostly lack spikes. The leaves are typically dark green, lobed, present many thorns, and can grow up to 20 cm long and about 3 cm wide, their size gradually decreasing in the upper part of the plant.
The flowers of creeping thistle are of a pink-purple color, all have a similar form, and are composed of many thin petals.
Because of its adaptive nature and with seeds that are dispersed by winds, the creeping thistle is seen as one of the most invasive weeds globally.
9. Common Mullein
Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a biennial plant original to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and introduced in the US and other countries.
Common Mullein by Ryan Hodnett / CC BY-SA
The first thing that can help us to identify this plant is its velvety leaves. Because of this quality of his, some commonly refer to mullein as “cowboy toilet paper.”
During the first year of life, the plant only produces a rosette of leaves on the ground, and only in its second year, it develops a stalk that can grow up to 2 m (6.5 ft) tall. This ends in a dense inflorescence that can occupy up to half of the stem length. The flowers are yellowish and have very short pedicels.
A layer of hair covers all parts of the plant, giving these plants a silvery appearance. However, the densest is found on the surface of the leaves.
Common mullein spreads by prolifically producing seeds, and while it doesn’t represent a problem in many areas, it has become invasive in the temperate climates where it grows the best.
10. Himalayan Balsam
Himalayan balsam (scientific name Impatiens glandulifera) is also commonly known as policeman’s helmet, copper tops, gnome’s hatstand, Ornamental jewelweed, Indian jewelweed, bobby tops, touch-me-not, as well as a few other names.
Himalayan Balsam by Philip Halling / CC BY-SA
It is a large annual herbaceous plant native to the Himalayan mountain range in Asia. While this plant can tolerate various types of soils, it habitually prospers on the banks of rivers. However, it can also be found in forests, wetlands, sides of roads, and can even occupy people’s yards or gardens.
Himalayan balsam normally reaches up to 2 m (6.5 ft) high. It has a green or slightly red stem that thickens when the plant reaches maturity. The leaves are lance-shaped with a pointy top. The flowers are typically pink or white, with a hooded shape. Hence, its popular name of “policeman’s helmet.”
After the flowering season, Himalayan balsam forms seed pods that pop when something touches them, dispersing the seeds up to 7 m (23 feet) distance.
Impatiens glandulifera endangers some of the native species of plants and alters the behavior of pollinating insects. Hence, it is regarded as an invasive weed species in many areas.
These are ten plants with a tall thick stalk that might pop up in your yard or garden without your allowance. The list could probably go on and on since there are a lot of other weeds that would fit these criteria.
Hopefully, this post will help someone identify a mysterious plant growing in his or her yard one day.
If you still cannot find an enigmatic plant among the ones in this article, I recommend you install a plant identification app (check out my list of best apps here) on your phone and simply take a photo of a leaf or another part of the plant. That should help you recognize the plant in no time.
10 Plants With Red Stems
Whether you are passionate about nature or have just come across unknown plants that grow on your property or in the wild, you may want to find out what those plants are. Knowing how to recognize a plant correctly may sometimes be vital, especially in a survival situation when you have to identify a plant to know if its fruits are edible or poisonous.
Some plants are easier to classify than others due to their distinct characteristics. Others are much harder to distinguish and can easily be confused with other similar species.
In the case of plants with a red stem, you already have an advantage as this is an obvious particularity.
We made a list of 10 plants that have full or partial red stems in at least a stage of their growth. Hopefully, it will help you and other people to identify the unknown plants that show these characteristics.
1. Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana)
Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana) is a large herbaceous perennial plant that grows in various regions. It is also commonly known as dragonberries, American pokeweed, or poke sallet.
It has the look of a shrub, has red-purple thick stems, green lance-shaped leaves, and can grow up to 10 ft (3 m) in height.
Besides its red stems, other characteristics that make pokeweed stand out are its fruits. In late summer, it produces grape-like green berries that grow in clusters. When ripening during the fall, these get a dark-purple color.
Do not eat the fruits produced by pokeweed! They are poisonous to humans and most animals. Not only their fruits are toxic but all the parts of the plant are.
Pokeweed is a very adaptive plant that can grow in many soil types and environments, overwhelming native flora. That’s why in many regions, pokeweeds are considered invasive plants.
Several species of birds are immune to the toxins in the berries of this plant. They consume the fruits and thus, helping pokeweeds spread from one place to another.
2. The Castor Bean (Ricinus Communis)
The castor bean (Ricinus communis) is a fast-growing large flowering perennial shrub. It is also commonly known as the castor oil plant.
Ricinus is very easy to identify in its mature form. It has a small tree’s look and, in climates without frosty winters, can reach impressive sizes of up to 39 ft (12 m) in height.
It has large glossy palmated leaves supported by long reddish stems that connect to a main thick stalk and produces spiny green or red-purple fruits that encapsulate oval seeds, which resemble beans. Some varieties have green leaves and red stems; others are entirely purple-reddish or change their color as the plant gets older.
The castor bean seeds contain a highly toxic poison called ricin. It is believed that several seeds (when masticated) contain enough of this toxin to kill an adult man. This makes the castor bean one of the most poisonous plants on earth.
3. Pigweed (Amaranthus)
Pigweed (Amaranthus) is a genus of herbaceous plants that includes more than 70 species that grow in many countries. Almost all of them are edible and some are even grown as leaf vegetables, ornamental plants, or as an alternative to cereals.
刻意, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Amaranths are erect plants with broad leaves and with colors from green to purple and red. They produce flowers that are either green, white, red, red-brown, or orange-brown. The flowers of some varieties are utilized to produce a dye that is often used in the food industry but banned from the US due to some potential carcinogen risks.
Not all amaranth varieties have red stems, so this is not a defining feature for identifying these plants. Also, in some species, the stem can acquire a reddish color as the plant ages. The height of the plant also varies from one variety to another.
4. Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens Glandulifera)
Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens Glandulifera) is a fast-growing large annual plant indigenous to the Himalayas mountainous regions. It is also commonly known under many other names, including policeman’s helmet, ornamental jewelweed, bobby tops, kiss-me-on-the-mountain, copper tops, etc.
This plant grows upright and has a primary green or red stem that hardens when it reaches maturity. The leaves are green, have the shape of a lance, and ending with a pointy top. It produces blooms that are either white or pink and have a hooded shape. A plant can reach up to 6.5 ft (2 m) in height.
Due to human introduction to non-native areas, it is now found in many countries. In some, it is considered an invasive plant. It is highly adaptable and spreads quickly due to its efficient explosive seed dispersal mechanism, which propels the seeds at a great distance from the plant.
5. Wineberry (Rubus Phoenicolasius)
Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) is a species of perennial plants native to several Asian countries and introduced in various regions of North America and Europe. Other common names include Japanese wineberry, dewberry, or wine raspberry.
The plant has a main green or reddish stalk with side shoots that grow in the plant’s second year of life. The leaves are large, green on the top and silver at the bottom. The surface of stems and the beneath of leaves are covered in dense reddish hair and thin spines.
In summer or early fall, wineberries produce edible fruits that are about 1 cm in diameter. These initially have a green color, then turn red when ripening. Their taste is similar to the raspberries but a little bit tarter.
These berries develop in dense clumps and thrive in many wild regions, frequently growing on roadsides and at the edge of forests and fields. Their stalks can reach up to 10 ft (3 m) in length.
Because they multiply rapidly and due to their way of growing in dense bushes that can negatively affect the local flora and fauna, wineberries are considered invasive plants in many regions.
6. Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus Sericea)
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) is a medium-sized shrub species in the family Cornaceae, which typically grows in wetland areas. It is also known under names like redstem dogwood, red willow, American dogwood, red-rood, western dogwood, and creek dogwood.
Cornus Sericea has elliptical green leaves, whose edges can sometimes take on a slightly reddish color. Its branches and twigs have normally a dark red color, but some plants may lack this coloration in shaded areas. It can reach up to 13 ft (4 m) in height and 16ft (5 m) wide.
Red osier dogwood is a common ornamental shrub mostly due to the red coloring of its twigs that stands out after it loses its leaves in the cold season.
7. Common Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)
Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a fast-growing herbaceous annual weed in the family Portulacaceae. It is distributed globally and has many other names, with the most common being common purslane, pursley, duckweed, wild portulaca, and little hogweed.
It is a trailing plant that spreads on the soil’s surface, has smooth succulent reddish stems and glossy leaves of a dark green color. Leaves are clustered at joints and stem ends. Throughout the year, it produces small yellow flowers that have heart-shaped petals. These are later replaced by seed capsules.
Common purslane is edible and has been eaten for hundreds of years by humans. Although in some places, it is considered a weed, in various regions, it is regarded more like a vegetable as many consume it raw or cooked.
8. Peonies (Paeonia Spp.)
Peonies (Paeonia spp.) is a genus of flowering herbaceous perennials and shrubs indigenous to Asia, Europe, and Western North America.
Photo by ovbelov, via Freepik
Peonies are popular garden plants because they require almost no care, have a long lifespan, and produce beautiful flowers of various colors. Although there are more than 30 species of peonies, the most common is the garden peony (common peony).
Peonies are easily recognizable when the plants are in bloom and when their foliage is fully formed. Many have trouble classifying them when their sprouts emerge in clusters from the ground during spring. In this growth stage, the shoots have a pretty alien look, and both the stems and the leaves can have a reddish color, making peony’s identification pretty difficult for someone who has never seen this plant in this early development phase.
As the plant grows, the leaves and stems usually turn green. However, there are also some species, such as the Balearic peony (Paeonia cambessedesii), whose stems and under leaves remain red even when the plant reaches its maturity.
9. Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra)
Elephant Bush (Portulacaria afra) is a semi-evergreen succulent shrub indigenous to South Africa. It is also known as dwarf jade plant, porkbush, or spekboom.
It grows wildly in the East of South Africa, is used as a landscape plant in several regions of the US and as an ornamental plant in many parts of the world. Elephant bush is also often grown as bonsai.
Portulacaria afra has succulent glossy green leaves and red stems, which thicken and turn reddish-brown as the plant ages. An adult shrub can reach more than 13 ft (4 m) in height.
During the plant’s early stages, the elephant’s bush leaves and stems look like the ones of common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It can also easily get confused with Crassula ovata (the jade plant) when grown as a bonsai.
10. Mountain Pepper (Drimys Lanceolata)
Mountain Pepper (Drimys lanceolata) is a type of shrub native to Australia. Other popular names of this plant are Tasmanian pepperberry and Cornish pepper leaf.
This shrub has red stems with dark green long leaves, which are broader in the middle, and have the shape of a lance tip. It produces white or cream flowers in the summertime, which during the fall turn into two-lobed dark-colored berries.
The leaves and fruits of this plant have a pungent aroma and are often used as a substitute of black pepper, hence the popular name of the plant “mountain pepper.”
This is just a small part of the multitude of plants that have a red stem. I hope you found this article interesting and helpful.
If your goal is to find out the name of a plant, I recommend seeing our guide on identifying plants with mobile apps. These can help you recognize a plant much faster and effortlessly by simply taking a picture of an unknown plant’s leaves, flowers, or fruits. You can even identify species of trees just by taking a photo of their bark.
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