Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Watch out for Wild Caraway - by Irene Shonle

Wild Caraway, a list B noxious weed in the State of Colorado, seems to be enjoying a population explosion in the mountain areas.  I've seen it in cow pastures, on roadsides, in mountain meadows, and in driveways -- and I've just discovered it in the past couple of years!  It goes under the radar screen of  many people who are otherwise savvy weed warriors.

Wild Caraway is actually the same plant that produces the caraway seed you may know from rye bread.  It just seems to have a dark side to it, in that it spreads very aggressively in areas where it is happy.  Unfortunately for us, it seems to have found a happy home in the Colorado Mountains.  It crowds out native plants, reduces forage, and in general, makes a pest of itself. Gather as many of the seeds as you want for your bread-baking adventures -- but be careful, since the seed shatters when it is mature.  Pull out any other plants that you see.

Wild caraway is in the parsley family, or the Apiaceae. It is a biennial, and grows to about 1.5 feet tall.  It has small white flowers that are clustered in flat umbels, and ferny foliage.

Wild caraway

In some ways, it looks a bit like a "looser" yarrow.  The picture below shows yarrow and caraway side-by-side. The caraway is on the left, in my hand.  It's not that easy to photograph, so forgive the picture.

The picture below shows a more closeup of the difference between the leaves.  The one I'm holding with my thumb is the wild caraway, and the yarrow is on the right.