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Turning a Problem into a Solution -- FLORIDA BETONY (Stachys floridana)

 
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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I am located on the southeast coast of NC at the NC/SC border...zone 8a. I am being overrun by Florida Betony...it is taking over my lawn AND my garden beds. I'm not sure how to deal with it.

My rabbits will not eat it (at least not the above ground parts and I've not tried giving them the tubers).

I can not keep up with pulling it fast enough to keep it from choking out my intentionally planted herbs...it grows much faster than the more civilized plants.

I have tried covering areas with cardboard...plastic...sheets of particle board....thick layers of mulch... and various combinations of those...and it seems this opportunistic plant will travel yards to find a hole to pop up through. Wood chip mulch does make it easier to pull the stuff up but it does not stop it no matter how thick I put the mulch.

If I don't do something soon, I will be mono-cropping Florida Betony whether I want to or not...HELP!!
 
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Well, according to this link your main issue of over-reproduction, are the tubers. However, the tuber are *edible*!!
Starchy roots used for 100's of years. Boiled... That's a win!


http://gadsden.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/07/15/florida-betony-both-edible-native-and-weed/
 
Tina Paxton
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Jd Gonzalez wrote:Well, according to this link your main issue of over-reproduction, are the tubers. However, the tuber are *edible*!!
Starchy roots used for 100's of years. Boiled... That's a win!


http://gadsden.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/07/15/florida-betony-both-edible-native-and-weed/



Yes, while I've not tried the tubers yet, I've read that they are quite delicious and similar to a tuber that gourmet restaurants charge $$$ for. But, I don't want a mono-crop of it covering my whole .6 acre homestead...

The Solution, in part anyway, is to dig up the tubers for a food source. So, imagine if you will, I've dug up large sections of my lawn to harvest the F.Betony tubers...what to do with those holes? Since I'm not likely to get all the tubers and roots should I plant something like buckwheat to try to choke out the remaining Betony? or, what other method? I'm totally up for using this process as a way to turn the lawn into perennial food beds....or into an expanse of herb meadow (like All-Heal or some such)...
 
steward
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Location: FL
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I'm in north Florida. When I lived in town betony was all over the backyard. Pull it up, it'll come right back. Dig it out, same thing. Tilling equates to betony multiplication.
It's those roots.
Betony forms tubers on the roots ranging from a fraction of an inch to several inches in length. It's called Rattlesnake Weed because of the size and shape of the tuber. If the tuber breaks, it's still viable and can grow another plant from a piece only a fraction of an inch in size. The roots also grow horizontally, propagating by rhizomes. If allowed to bloom, the plant produces an abundance of seeds the size of dust which further spread the plant. Persistence is the enemy, and this plant won't give up.

The strategy I've employed works well with raised beds. Clearing the bed of all traces of roots is easier down here with the loose sandy soil. Rather than pull the weed I follow the roots to get every last bit. It's a chore. Miss a piece, it'll come back. The removed roots will grow quickly if composted. I have piled it up to dry before composting, and the water stored in the tubers keeps it alive. A steaming hot heap will knock em down. The sides of the beds need to be a solid wall extending below the ground surface. I've used ceramic floor tile, but the gaps between the tile allows the roots to get through and the plant comes back. I've used lumber, but as the lumber decays, the roots grow through it. My best defense was some scrap concrete fiber panels sunk into the ground about a foot. This made a continuous wall which made it hard for the plants to dive deep enough to get under the barrier, but not impossible. It still came back, but it takes a few months.

I can get the weed out of the beds, but if the weed is outside of the beds, the roots find a way in. I ripped the stuff out of the paths and mulched the paths. Again, more chore. Any plants that bloom a few feet from the beds and mulched paths would produce seeds to blow back into the beds.

Eradicating the weed is a battle of attrition. Pulling them up when you see them is the easiest method because you can see the plant. The roots are not strong so the top will pull easily, but always leaves something behind. Pulling is only a temporary measure, but keeps the plant under control with the least effort. You'll need to keep the area in and arou6nd the gardens clear of visible weeds, and the effort is continuous. Start in the center, work your way out. This will give you an area that is mostly clear of the weed for a longer period.

That's the best I've got for you.
Out here in the woods I have not yet found the weed. I am thankful.



 
Tina Paxton
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Ken Peavey wrote:
Out here in the woods I have not yet found the weed. I am thankful.



That, I think, is the key. They prefer SUNSHINE. They don't, for example, grow under my pecan grove...or the oak tree. So, I just need to plant lots and lots of TREES. I love trees...and big bushes....they create a lovely cool micro-climate in this otherwise hot humid place!
 
Tina Paxton
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This is interesting...gives me a few options to try to make the most of this pest...umm, I mean, opportunistic plant: http://www.holisticlivingschool.org/floridas-radish-betony/
 
Ken Peavey
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I've chopped them up for the chickens. They'll peck at them a bit.
 
Tina Paxton
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Ken Peavey wrote:I've chopped them up for the chickens. They'll peck at them a bit.



The chickens are totally uninterested. I haven't seen the ducks eating it either. The animals seem totally uninterested in helping me with the problem.

EDIT: I just thought of something! It also does not grow in my daylily beds! So, if I replace the parts of the lawn that the Betony is taking over with daylily beds...oh, yeah...I like that!
 
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If you're willing to try another fast growing native plant, Jerusalem Artichoke grows up to 10' tall with large edible roots. It would shade out the Florida betony, and, livestock would find the leaves more to their taste.
 
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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I have a new foraging book and was intrigued by the mention of Florida Betony.  It doesn't seem to have made it to central Oklahoma as a weed, which is no surprise because mint-family plants aren't invasive here; the heat/drought of midsummer kills them if they don't get irrigation.  But I'm researching it now because it sounds like a tasty tuber that I could totally grow in my garden.  

If anybody knows of a seed source, I'd be interested.  I can find sellers offering expensive tubers for propagation on eBay and Amazon, but right now heading into high summer is the wrong time for this plant, which is summer-dormant by all accounts.  I'd rather have some seed on hand that I can use to experiment with a variety of fall and spring sowing dates.  

Once again, I'm not worried about its weedy potential.  By my lights, anything that produces starchy edible parts is welcome if it does get a foothold.  

Eat The Weeds has a good article on Florida Betony.
 
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