The Dry Garden: Beware the foxtail

Posted on | August 19, 2011 | No Comments


Foxtail: Hordeum murinum in Voorhis Ecological Reserve, Cal Poly Pomona. Source: Curtis Clark / Wikipedia

A romp with your dog in the garden or park should be a happy thing. Life affirming! Usually it is, until your dog encounters the wrong plant. Then it can swiftly become pain and suffering, first for the dog, then for your bank account. Inspired by a recent emergency room visit with a terrier after what seemed at the time like a picture-perfect Kodak moment in a meadow, this is what amounts to a pet owner’s Most Wanted list of plants that can harm dogs, which gardeners should remove and hikers should avoid.

Top of my list, and also the lists of veterinarian Nancy Kay  and UC Davis weed scientist Joseph DiTomaso are foxtails. Depending on where you live, these might be one of a number of grasses with needle-like seed heads. After a spectacularly wet winter and a mild, unusually long growing season this year, these are still standing, and at their most deadly – ripe, dry and brittle. In other words, the seeds are primed to imbed themselves in your dog. In Southern California, DiTomaso names as common foxtail-type grasses wild barley (Hordeum murinum) and ripgut brome (Bromus diandrus).

Click here to keep reading about a pawful weed in this week’s Dry Garden column in the Los Angeles Times.



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