Saturday, 8 November 2008

America's Weed - Hogwort

America's Weed - HogwortJ. K. Rowling and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from her Harry Potter series of books must spring to mind with this name. Hogwort was apparently seen in Kew Gardens by the author and the name had remained part of her subconscious when writing.

Hogwort is also called the Woolly Croton or dove weed and grows in sandy prairies, openings and waste places in the USA mainly from New Jersey to Iowa and southward to Georgia and Texas. It is an upright, multi-branched annual herb and can reach a height of 1 metre. It has greyish-green stems with tiny hairs. The leaves are a thin lance shape and vary from 2 to 9 centimetres long. The green male flowers are situated above the female flowers on a stalk.

America's Weed - HogwortThe fruit consists of a three-seeded pod. There is a system of distributing the seed by quails, mourning dove (hence the name doveweed) and turkeys who consume and spread the seed. Hogwort flowers from summer to autumn (July to October) and is a source of food for caterpillars from the Leafwing and Starred Skipper butterflies.

Hogwort thrives on open uplands and bottomlands and grows best in sandy soils. It also grows on recently ploughed fields, along roadsides and in big grazed pasturelands.

It has a reputation for being a troublesome weed in the southern part of the USA particularly in the Gulf States. Although considered a weed, the benefits of hogwort are in the croton oil it produces, this makes a powerful laxative. And of course fodder for grazing, especially wild deer.

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