The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark
September 13, 2011
Goose grass: A county tough comes to town
A cropland pest is also the city's toughest weed, holding its own even when growing from the crack of a heavily trafficked sidewalk or parking spot.
Even where it isn't being trampled, goose grass grows flat to the ground, its pale silvery stems forming a coarse starburst that can duck the lowest of lawn mower blades.
If a hoe doesn't get to it first, the grass will meet its match when freezing temperatures knock it out. But by then the weed's zipper-shaped spikelets will have dropped hundreds of tiny, dark-brown seeds. Those will sprout best late next spring on the sun-drenched surfaces of compacted city soils and country croplands, where goose grass is developing resistance to a growing number of herbicides.
Although goose grass is one of the world's worst agricultural weeds, its measly seeds can become a grain of last resort during a famine. If enough seeds are gathered from plants growing in uncontaminated soil they can be boiled whole or ground into flour for making cakes or gruel.