Arum maculatum: Toxic plant hard to control, but give it a bash

Monday, March 26, 2012
11:11 AM

Question: I have a problem with what I have been told is a plant / weed called “Lords and Ladies” growing in various locations throughout the garden. They grow in clumps in the borders, in the grass and individually in the raised beds. I have looked on the internet and it was suggested that a weed killer containing Glyphosate would be suitable to remove it. Unfortunately after numerous attempts this has proved to be unsuccessful. Could you please offer any advice in the successful removal of these plants / weed? (M Hampton, via email)

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Answer:

The plant has the Latin name Arum maculatum and is known by other names including Cuckoo Pint, Jack-in-The-Pulpit to name but two. It is a common woodland plant with purple spotted leaves in early spring followed by the dramatic flowers that give it its name.

The plant is toxic to humans, particularly the orange seeds that are produced late in the summer. Chemical control is seldom an option for fear of killing the plants around them and eliminating other enjoyable vegetation including primroses. These are difficult to control even with chemical weed killers. Smothering with old carpet or black plastic cuts out moisture and light often resulting in the death of the weeds with no chemicals.

Spraying the leaves as they emerge in spring is a suitable way of getting the chemical to work effectively. When the leaves get bigger later in the season they seem to just shed the spray with little or no damage to the weed. Try bashing the leaves with a stick before applying the chemical as will help the chemical to be taken in by the weed. Rather than applying the Glyphosate as a spray, paint it on the leaves with a paintbrush. This can be done with neat Glyphosate or use Roundup Gel.

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