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I'm in the process of systematically removing all the weeds from my backyard -- starting with dandelions and thistle. All of a sudden, this thing sprouted in the middle of a bare patch. What on earth is it?

If it helps, I live in southern Ontario, near Toronto.

enter image description here

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looks awfully familiar but I can only say that it is not burdock or sow thistle. –  kevinsky May 29 '12 at 14:18
    
Whether it's a teazel or not it's a weed. Remove it and be sure to get the root! –  kevinsky May 29 '12 at 19:14
    
How do you know it's a weed? –  ashes999 May 29 '12 at 19:18
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A weed is just a plant in the wrong place. If it's not grass or clover and it's in your lawn then it's a weed for you. –  kevinsky May 29 '12 at 19:44
    
You can also wait for flowers, to see if it is a teazel or not. I am curious too :) –  Jacek Konieczny May 29 '12 at 20:39

4 Answers 4

This looks like some Teazel to me.

Update 2012-05-31: I made a photo of young Fuller's teasel plants growing near my home:

enter image description here

Now I am quite sure your plant is the same or other plant from the Dipsacaceae (teazel) genus. Notice the thorns on the lower side of the leaves. I can see them on your photo too.

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Doesn't look like it to me. Doesn't even have the flowers. –  ashes999 May 29 '12 at 18:18
    
Most plants are leaves-only before the flowers appear. These look like leaves of a teazel plant to me. I may be wrong, though. –  Jacek Konieczny May 29 '12 at 18:23
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This website has a better picture of teasel leaves and they are close in their resemblance but seem to lack the toothed edges on the plant ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/diwsi.htm –  kevinsky May 29 '12 at 18:29
    
They don't seem prickly either. Hmm. It is still a distinct possibility. –  ashes999 May 29 '12 at 18:39

It's certainly teasel if it has a row of thorns along the underside spine of the leaf.

It's a dynamic accumulator, with a deep tap root. It pierces clay soils and brings up important micronutrients. The leaves are good for mulching. It collects water at the base of its leaves. It will mature with a distinctive spiky seed pod that crafters work into arrangements when dried. Goats love it.

As with most weeds, it's trying to tell you something. If it's not right where you want something else, I'd let it grow until before it goes to seed, then cut it down and spread the leaves out on your fall/winter beds for mulch. As a mulch, it will reduce erosion while putting into surface soil minerals and micro-nutrients that it probably lacks.

Either that, or feed it to someone's goat! As weeds go, it's a pretty nice one. :-)

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Ah, if only I had a goat ... –  ashes999 Jun 4 '12 at 19:32

I believe this is some kind of Dock/Sorrel - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumex

So, maybe not a weed, but an edible plant.

I think we will be more lucky in identifying the plant if you let it flower, and then upload a new picture.

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Dipsacus fullonum, I'm pretty sure and I agree with Jacek.

In your picture the plant is still very young, it takes a couple of months to see the flowers. In Italy it is very common and it is called cardo dei lanaioli

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