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Meet Daniel Murphy, Collections Curator & Appreciator of Garden Weeds

By: Anni Jack, Adult Education Coordinator | 04/06/2022

Let’s start off IBG staff highlights with our very own Daniel Murphy. We recently spent a gorgeous spring afternoon talking garden weeds and Daniel-details. 

Daniel started his plant-loving life as a child helping his mom in their veggie garden. His youthful love of punk rock music connected him to environmentalism, and as he pursued his degree at the University of Idaho, Daniel became involved with the Soil Stewards as well as public gardens. As we stood in our own Idaho Botanical Garden, Daniel told me that public gardens were “the best of all worlds in a hort career,” where all of his interests came together. 

These days at IBG, you can find Daniel curating plant collections, a year-round project that began years ago. He spends time with his partner Sierra and their dog Kōura while enjoying his own home garden spaces. You can still find his environmentally-conscious self promoting sustainability while traveling by bike and reminiscing over his zinester days (don’t worry, I had to look that up too! A zinester refers to someone who publishes independent publications).  Daniel’s love of writing does continue on in his blog, Awkward Botany.

That day on our walk, Daniel highlighted weeds in the mustard family. We came across them in the undeveloped portion of IBG known as ‘The Meadow’ off of Old Penitentiary Road.  Why is he taken with mustard weeds in particular, you ask? Well, I learned that they are prolific with tiny seeds, the flowers are cross-shaped, the fruit pods are split by a clear membrane, and they are all considered edible. Helpful fact: before you go take a bite out of that whitetop, know that edible doesn’t always equate to tasty. 

While most mustard weeds are known for their prolific baby-making seed abilities, perennial whitetop spreads quite assertively by underground stems (rhizomes) and is considered a noxious weed.

Whitetop (Lepidium) underground stems

Blue mustard was a weed we observed with pretty purple-blue little flowers.

Blue mustard (Chorispora)

There is even a tumbleweed mustard, thought by many to be tasty in its young state.

Dry tumblemustard (Sisymbrium altissimum) stalks

Daniel has discussed mustard weeds in his botanical blog, Awkward Botany.  You can read them here: https://awkwardbotany.com/2018/05/16/spring-weeds-in-the-mustard-family/

You can find all things weedy as it pertains to Boise in Daniel’s collection here: https://awkwardbotany.com/weeds-of-boise/.

Keep on the lookout for future staff highlights! We hope that you get to know a little more about the people that help grow our community by connecting people, plants, and nature!

Questions about gardening? Call our Horticulture Helpline at 208-275-8614 or e-mail us at info@idahobotanicalgarden.org.