Trophy weeding


While I am in Chicago sans laptop, here's a guest post from Kansas blogger and professor of veterinary medicine James Rousch.–Eliz.

A post by Carol of May Dreams Gardens, suggesting that a dandelion she had pulled was at least a 4-pointer, got me to thinking that gardeners everywhere need a common scoring system to rate their weeding efforts.  After all, the Boone and Crockett Club has been scoring trophy bucks for decades, allowing armed vicious meat-hunters everywhere to compare and brag about the size of their antlers, so why shouldn't gardeners be able to codify their weed slaughter from region to region?  Think of the possibilities: trophy presentations at monthly garden meetings and at national floral shows; record-winning specimens dry-mounted for home or office display; income potential for gardeners selling weeding rights to prime weed growth areas; competitive teams of weeders vying for world championships;  professional weeders with big-money contracts for advertising endorsements of horticultural products.

Since I claim credit for developing the idea to its full potential, I also feel responsible for creating the rating system for measurement.  I would therefore propose the following as the Professor Roush Official Weed Demise (PROWD) scoring system for domestic horticultural invaders:

A.  # of individual flowers/ flower buds on the weed at the time of extrication.
B.  Length of the longest point of the root system from soil level to tip, in centimeters.
C.  Overall mass of the weed (soil removed by washing) in avoirdupois ounces (28 grams/ounce).
D. Relative adverse environmental conditions during weed collection awarded from 0-10 points, with recent rain and 70F conditions scoring 0 and dry soil and 110F ambient temperatures receiving a score of 10.  If the gardener is actually dehydrated or suffering sunstroke at the time of weeding, a bonus of 5 points may be added.  If the gardener is actually hospitalized after collection, an additional bonus of 5 points is awarded.
E.  Relative removal completeness, scored on a scale of 0-10 points, with full roots and no breakage receiving a 10 score.  Subtract 2 points for ripping off a tap-rooted specimen at ground level.
F.  Use of mechanical devices for assistance are scored from 0-5 points with (-3) points awarded for rototillers and 5 points awarded if the weed was pulled bare-handed.  A ten-point bonus is awarded if pulled bare-handed and the weed causes contact dermatitis or has thorns.  Another ten-point bonus may be awarded if the weed was gathered in close proximity to a fire-ant or hornet nest and the gardener was bitten or stung.

The guidelines above should be sufficient to establish records for individual species trophies. However, for comparison between species, the following category should also be assessed:

G. Relative invasiveness or reproductive potential of the species from 0-10 points, with government-recognized invasive species scoring 10, kudzu 25, Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata) 50 and the common dayflower (Commelina communis) rating 100 points. Zero points are awarded for pulling up Lamb's Quarters during a rainstorm.

The competing gardener should note that careful attention to certain details during weed collection may increase total scores. Therefore, it is advisable to attempt to inflate scores by delaying the actual weed collection until the gardener is actually suffering delirium and muscle cramps, but such acts must be officially witnessed and attested to by a friend or spouse who had previously told the gardener repeatedly what an idiot he or she was. 

So, that's it, the Professor Roush Official Weed Demise scoring system.  On that scale, the above pictured dandelion collected on 4/22/11 would score 6+27+9+2+10+5= 59 PROWD points, presently a world record dandelion (as it is also the only one entered in the official record book).

Additionally, since Professor Roush recognizes the deep competitiveness rampant among gardeners that leads some of them to acts of espionage and sabotage at Rose Exhibitions and Dahlia Shows, any claim for a record-setting specimen is disqualified if the gardener has made any attempt to fertilize or use growth stimulants on an individual weed, or to selectively breed weeds for size and invasiveness. Don't bother to deny it, I know some of you out there were already contemplating how to improve your entries.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Need a Landscape Design Scoring System for how much maintenance is required to maintain “The Look.”

    Disgusted with gardens in magazines & on tours, gorgeous, but require TONS of maintenance.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. This is really funny! Thanks for sharing your humor with us. And I have to admit…I was already thinking about how to grow the biggest weed, even before your last paragraph. After all, if we’re going to compete for the biggest weed, we might as well go all the way!

    Thanks again for a good laugh.
    Stan Horst

  3. I know I’ve read somewhere that a garden/flower show had this very contest. I believe it required the weed to be herbacious and not woody and that it had to be presented intact, along with a photo before it was ‘yanked’.

    Another garden had a contest for largest tomato horn worm.

    The things people do for fun…

  4. Peter – excellent suggestion. I have broken a few tools for sure. I now have a stainless steel very sturdy weeder, there is no chance of breaking that baby.

  5. “…armed vicious meat hunters…”? Are you perhaps referring to the folks at your local cattle slaughterhouse?

  6. “armed vicious meat hunters” – yeah the deer hunters I know are armed and meat hunters, but vicious applies more to me pulling weeds or killing japanese beetles and slugs. I know no deer hunter who hates and despises and wishes for the total elimination of the species as gardeners feel toward weeds. Nor would they describe deer with the horrid terms that spew from my mouth (under my breath so as not to shock the neighbors) directed at said weeds and bugs. Hilarious posting.

  7. FWIW, I know gardeners who hate and despise and wish for the total elimination of deer.

  8. LOL – fantastic ! And yes, I must confess that halfway through I was already contemplating breaking my Miracle-Gro ban just to get a trophy-sized spiny lettuce !

  9. We are new-ish to a house built in 1875, with an overgrown, untended-for-3-years yard. Mid-June last year, my dear hubby extricated the “Mother Porcelain Berry Vine” of the East Coast. He tugged, grunted, sweat, slipped and persevered. The root was about the diameter of a 13-year-old’s forearm. The length that he removed intact was about 20 feet. (Yup, I got the pics)

    Thank you for quantifying our work! This one will be tough for us to beat – and really, I hope we never do.

    Score at least 659
    a = 0
    b = 608
    c = ?
    d = 7 + 5
    e = 9 (because those stupid vines grow to infinity)
    f = 5
    g = 25 (it’s gotta be as bad as kudzu)

  10. Blackberries! They are killing me! My entire yard was covered when we first moved there 3 years ago. I am still battling them.

  11. I just thought of another catagory. The delicate touch catagory. who can tease the most rooty weed that is intertwined around a delecate plant without damaging said plant?

  12. John mentioned a competition for the largest tomato horn worm. The thought of a group of people showing up someplace with ginormous tomato horn worms in tow…I may have nightmares tonight.

  13. Bummer I was hoping using the vintage John Deere “A” tractor to unsuccessfully eradicate my black locust trees and pulling out the trees and roots a good 10 feet long would count.

    Though how about the most money spent to remove that giant weed??

  14. Wisteria is definitely harder to get rid of than Kudzu. I know. We had human-body-size kudzu roots invading the dam on our 1/2 acre earth-bottom pond, and wisteria strangling the willow trees that had also invaded. After 2+ years of weeding the kudzu and willows were gone, but the wisteria kept popping up.
    Hilarious post; loved it!

  15. For perpetuating the myth that bumblebees are agressive and sting,the writer loses 25 points from from a perfect humor score.

    BUMBLEBEES DO NOT STING! Yes, I’m shouting. They are docile pollinators and you can probably outrun them. Hornets, some which have ground nests, are reactive and aggressive. They will chase you across the yard and into your house, then sting you if they haven’t already.

    If you read this and still run away from bumbles, you lose 10 points for cowardice.

    Since not everyone reads the responses, I kindly ask you to consider writing a correction.
    Your amateur beekeeper,

  16. Wonderful post, Professor Rousch.

    I’m hoping for the Special Stupidity Prize for never wearing gloves–even when pulling stinging nettles.

    Like deer hunters, we weeders should be eating much of what we cull.

  17. As the author of said piece, I’ve enjoyed all the ideas and take offs on the subject…and like Michelle,I weed without gloves, but I’m aided by not being allergic to poison ivy.

    But to respond to poster Marie, the amateur beekeeper, I’m afraid that although I included the line about bumblebees for humor and did not consider the accuracy, my research now tells me that, in fact, you happen to be perpetuating Kool-Aid. Queens and Worker Bumblebee’s can sting and, in fact, their stinger lacks barbs so they can sting repeatedly. It is true that they are not naturally aggressive, but they will sting in defence of their nest or if harmed. So, when they are buzzing around my head and making a bee-line for my backside, I’m going to continue to run with my yellow tail between my legs.

  18. Just want to apologize for sounding like an ignorant talk show host…shouting and spouting lies….and not doing my own homework.

    Nevertheless, a big fat bumble bee will not chase you the length of a foot ball field just for the hell of it.


  19. are extra points attributed for eating the weeds you pull? Dandelion & kudzu in particular are good eats.

  20. After spending several hours attempting to remove creeping Charlie from my lawn yesterday (and countless hours of the the past 2 years), I was fantasizing about this weedkiller: However, I have come to realize what I NEED is a controlled burn of the entire yard. For some reason, my neighbors didn’t seem too keen on that idea. So, I am left wondering what has worked for anyone else, and cursing the settlers who brought this miserable herb with them.

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