Barry Thorp sent in an image asking for identification of a mysterious plant in his garden and was immediately warned to destroy it as soon as possible. According to The Telegraph, the September 2019 issue of the magazine contains an email from Barry who sent a picture of the plant and asked: "Can you identify this mystery plant from my garden?".
Her answer read: "It looks like hemp (Cannabis sativa). It is, of course, illegal to grow and probably germinated from bird seed. Although it has obviously thrived in the warm summer, you had better destroy it. It is safe to put on the compost heap but I would advise against a bonfire."
Wild bird seed can cause illegal cannabis plants to grow in your garden, a BBC Gardeners' World expert has warned readers of the programme's magazine.
Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturist, told The Telegraph: "Yes, this is a Cannabis sativa plant. It is illegal to possess/cultivate it in the UK without a special licence. Some legal cultivation is allowed under licence both for pharmaceutical use and, using low cannaboid content cultivars, for seed, oil and fibre.
Responding in the Gardeners' Question Time section, Anne Swithinbank identified it as hemp and pointed out it is illegal to grow cannabis at home. She advised Barry to destroy it immediately – but warned against burning it.
Patricia Hewitson, from Exmouth, contacted BBC Radio Devon's gardening programme asking for help identifying "a weed".
After discovering it was an illegal cannabis plant the police were involved.
Cannabis is illegal to grow without a licence so Mrs Hewitson and her husband John were advised by Devon and Cornwall Police about what to do with the specimen.
Officers said Mrs Hewitson was growing the plant illegally but in good faith.
"It's quite common for bird seed to contain a huge variety of plant seed and cannabis has been known to come up from it."
All weeds are annoying, but some packages of birdseed have been identified as having numerous varieties of invasive weed seeds. When these seeds are scattered from a feeder and spread in the yard, they can quickly become a maintenance nightmare. To avoid purchasing bird seed containing noxious weeds, read the label or contact the seed manufacturer and find out what was done to ensure the contents are not invasive weed seeds. Birdseed that contains a lot of filler seed such as red millet may result in more weed growth because birds do not tend to like this type of seed. Instead of eating the filler, they push it aside and cause more to drop to the ground as they search for the seed they desire. Know what types of birdseed you are buying in a mix and if it is desirable to the birds you intend to attract.
Keep in mind that the birdseed won’t grow weeds in your yard if it doesn’t reach the ground. Putting a tray under your bird feeder to catch overflowing seeds can prevent the problem of weed growth. Although birds may be messy eaters, squirrels are sometimes a bigger problem. If you notice squirrels scattering seeds in your yard, consider another type of feeder that will prevent the squirrels from accessing the seeds.
Types of Bird Food
When seeds are baked, they lose the ability to germinate. Some birdseed manufacturers sell baked birdseed. This type of seed will not cause weeds to grow in your yard but will still attract birds. Other types of bird food, such as sunflowers hearts, peanut butter, raisins, mealworm and suet cakes, will not sprout if scattered about your yard by messy eaters.
If you’re inviting flocks of birds to visit your yard by enticing them with birdseed, you may also be inviting weeds. When seed falls from the feeder to the ground there is potential for germination. This is not a problem with all types of bird food. By being a conscientious shopper you can enjoy the birds while avoiding additional weed growth.
Weeds are going to be an issue in any garden. Regularly monitoring your yard will give you an idea of what maintenance needs to be done. By doing this you can see where weeds are popping up and remove them before they flower and spread to other areas of the yard. They are also much easier to remove when they are small.