Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) can resemble a coneflower when it first comes up, so it's easy to see why it gets out of control. The large oval-shaped leaves of this perennial develop in a rosette with predominant veins. The seed head is described as a "rat tail." Broadleaf plantain spreads by both seed and shoots from the roots.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia, better known as Virginia creeper, is a perennial deciduous woody vine. The leaves are compound, containing five leaflets, and range in size from 2 to 6 inches with toothed margins. The leaves are red when they first emerge, but turn green as they mature.
The leaves turn a bright red in fall and are often confused with poison ivy, but poison ivy has only three leaflets. Virginia creeper can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet. It spreads by seeds deposited by birds, and by attaching tendrils containing adhesive disks on the tips. The stems will root if they come into contact with soil.
Poison oak (Rhus oxicodenadron L.), resembles the leaves of an oak tree and, like poison ivy, leaflets are grouped three per leaf. Young plants less than a foot tall with only a single stem can be physically removed with little difficulty, especially in the spring when the ground is soft. Wear gloves to avoid a rash; burning is dangerous, as well. It rarely infests mowed turf grass areas, but can be a problem along fence lines and rock walls.
There are so many other weeds in my yard. I have Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana), carpetweed (Mollugo verticillata), henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus), filed bindweed or morning glory (Convolvulus arvenis), wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). They're all here somewhere. If I had the same luck with flowers as I do with weeds, I would be selling tickets for garden tours!
More poison ivy advice
Lisa from Charleston writes: "Because it is the oil of poison ivy, oak and sumac that causes the rashes, immediately wash any exposed area with simple dish detergent, such as Dawn, Joy or Kroger generic brand. All dish soaps are made to cut grease and oil! Upon reflection, it's just common sense.
"I am an avid gardener who easily contracts poison ivy, et al. I keep a bottle of soap on my garden work bench, along with a roll of paper towels. Throughout the hours I'm in the yard I may wash off several times.
"Once I come inside I carefully remove my clothing, place it in the washer, add some dish soap, and run the clothes through a prewash. I then immediately take a shower, first washing my hands and face with just a dab of dish soap and dry off with a paper towel. I then wash each extremity with the soap using a separate paper towel for each arm and leg, disposing of them in the trash can as I finish with each one.
"A tough enemy takes heroic measures!"
Sara Busse of Charleston is a Master Gardener.