Marestail and How to Remove It

Marestail is a relic of our ancient past. A true fossil (In the living sense). Once huge great towering trees, now a very hardy and adaptive perennial weed that can take over a bed and garden at lightning speed.

Paths, hard ground, even tarmac are no match for it when it takes hold and roots can travel some distance down and across before even growing up.

Yes that little spiney stick, in between the Rhubarb is Marestail and it can grow into a thick covering.

Normally it is brought into a garden or allotment with soil, compost or even a transplanted plant and then it takes off.

It’s root can grow down to 2 m (7ft) deep and unlike your precious veg and most flowers we all like, if you break even a small piece of the root off and leave it in the soil, it will start to regrow a new plant.

In fact, the best way this plant replicates in a dug allotment is when we use spades and forks near it and break the roots up.

How to Remove it

Bottom line – You can’t!

It is just too good at what it does.

Some methods include digging the soil up, then sieving the soil to remove any of the roots from it.

Continually pulling out any stalks as they appear in order to make the plant weak.

Weed Killer – Though normal weed killer will not kill it and requires the hardest of chemicals to work and we do not allow weed killer on Croftburn Allotments as a rule.

One untested method I read was to use bleach, salt and boiling water, but again this seems like it kills the top of the plant but it keeps growing back.

What to do then?

Best Approach

Your best approach in an organic allotment is to keep an eye on it and keep removing the top of the plant from the soil, burn or dispose of in your recycling.

If you are digging in an area where Marestail exists, then use a fork and gently tease out any roots as you go, dispose of correctly. It will weaken over a number of years.


STOP PAYING FOR SCOURING PADS – the Romans used this plant to great effect for cleaning pots and pans. So if you see it, pull it up and clean away, just dispose of correctly!

It is over 100 million years old.

If you feel a mathematical urge when you look at the fronds go from large to small as they head up the stem, you won’t be alone… the invention of logarithms was inspired by this very plant.