Identifying Ragweed

Are you allergic to ragweed?  Jon is.  According to Wikipedia, Ragweed is a very common allergen.  Just ask around and you’re sure to find people who know they are allergic to it.  But do you know how to recognize it?  It’s a very common weed and I realized recently that I’ve seen it’s growing all over my neighborhood. 

A few weeks ago, I came home from a 10 day summer vacation to find 3 beautiful bushes growing in my front yard.  I’ve been trying to get some pretty flowers and bushes to grow in our tiny, mostly shaded front yard, so I was thrilled.  I was also pretty surprised, because that spot had been absolutely bare when we left for vacation.  I’m not kidding.  See the pictures for both how bare it was, and why I was thrilled to have a pretty bush there! (I’m trying to replace the fake looking mulch with a more natural front yard.)  

2014-08-23 19.24.22

Bare spot in our front yard

2014-08-05 14.06.16

Beautiful, mysterious bush in our front yard

I was excited by this beautiful new addition to our yard. Yet, I was skeptical. What kind of bush grows from nothing to the size of my 4 year-old blueberry bush in just 10 days? I had a bad feeling about this.

I knew my co-worker had recently been to a class about identifying wetland plants and that he had bought some books on identifying plants. I took some photos in and asked him.  He happily did some research and came back with “Alicia, I’m afraid I have bad news. I think your beautiful new bush is ragweed.” I was devastated! So devastated that I did my own research, even googling “Looks like ragweed” to try to find something else it could be. 

I was convinced. It was ragweed. Ragweed has ragged leaves (see the pictures), green flower-like stamens that come out of the leaves and stems that are tan and red with tiny little hairs on them.  I have seen it growing mixed in with grass and looking like plants and bushes. If you decide to pull it out by hand, I strongly recommend wearing gloves.  I found out the hard way that I have a contact allergy to it as well as I had itchy spots on my arms for about five days after pulling the ragweed bushes from our yard. I don’t react to poison ivy, so this was especially surprising.

Closeup of ragweed stem

Closeup of ragweed stem – notice red color and tiny hairs

Common North American Ragweed

Common North American Ragweed

Ragweed with green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with  more mature  green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with more mature green staminate flower spikes

Please share this information with others. My hope is that the more people that can identify ragweed, the more we can eradicate it with simple hand pulling and save a lot allergy suffering.

Happy Greening!



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  1. I actually did not know what ragweed looked like! Thanks for teaching me something new today! 🙂

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