Native milkweed is essential to the survival of monarch caterpillars.
Photo Credit : Dreamstime
We think of them as pests, but many weeds play an important role in gardening. Their benefits include attracting pollinating insects, acting as an indicator of soil quality, and providing a food source for monarch larvae, people and pets. Read on to learn more about four beneficial weeds that are commonly found in New England – you might think twice before eradicating these plants from your garden and yard.
4 BENEFICIAL WEEDS
If you’re concerned about the decline of the monarch butterfly population, then please allow some milkweed stalks to grow in your yard. Monarch caterpillars rely on the leaves of the milkweed plant for nutrition and shelter. And they build and anchor their chrysalises on the leaves and stalks for early fall metamorphosis.
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This low-to-the-ground, flowering weed attracts pollinators in the spring when it blooms, but it can also be an indicator of poor soil. When you see chickweed, your soil may need to be amended. If you intend to plant in areas where chickweed is present, a soil test is recommended before you start.
The weed everybody loves to hate has many benefits. A favorite flower of young children, this common weed is a preferred food source of pollinating bees and other insects. Dandelions attract ladybugs, moths and pollinating wasps, all of which benefit your garden. They were a popular food staple in early North American settlements as they were easily foraged and have edible green leaves high in nutrients. Many health food and specialty grocery stores and restaurants offer edible dandelion greens to purchase.
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White, Red and Purple Clover
Often seen in orchards and fields, clover will keep soil and shallow fruit tree roots covered and protected, in addition to attracting pollinators and beneficial insects. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil when it decomposes and if you have a pet rabbit or guinea pig, they enjoy munching on clover flowers in addition to their regular recommended and required pet foods. Always wash clover before feeding to pets.
This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.