It's Elephantopus tomentosus, also known as hairy elephantsfoot, tobaccoweed, and my personal favorite, devil's grandmother.
Despite my cynical expectation that everything is a voracious invader species...it isn't. It's a native wildflower.
It's endangered in Maryland.
Here in the south, it's listed as "widespread, but infrequent" from a coupla sources, when I can find it at all--it's a bloody obscure little plant. Most of the listings have no distribution at all, so I don't know if it's incredibly common, or if nobody's seen it in fifty years. (That some people recognized it from their childhood yards fills me with hope, though.)
Nowhere in the south is it in endangered, thank god, but the notion of pulling up a wildflower that's endangered anywhere on the same continent makes my bowels knot. I cringe away from the very idea.
But it's in a terrible place--it's surrounded and intermixed with Japanese stiltgrass, which absolutely positively has to die before it sets seed, in an area that's pegged to become the patio some day. (No, we can't put the patio somewhere else. It's the only possible spot.)
Ripping up a native wildflower endangered in part of its range, to put in a patio, though? Mommmmeeee! I don't know if I've got that in me. But even leaving that aside, the stiltgrass absolutely, positively has GOT to go--it really is a voracious invader, and nothing eats it, and I can't let that stuff set seed. I haven't seen a single bunny since that stuff took over--it smothers anything that native critters might eat, and it must die. So I'm screwed--stiltgrass has to die, but it's worked around and through the devil's grandmother.
The only thing I can think of to do--and it's not worth much--is pull as much of the intermixed stiltgrass by hand as possible, wait until the devil's grandmother goes to seed, and then see if I can transplant a significant chunk of the stuff to somewhere in the yard where it can grow unmolested. James is pretty sure he can mow around the stuff and get the bulk of the stiltgrass, but the stuff will still ultimately need to be moved. I know many wildflowers don't transplant well, so I'd really like to wait until it seeds, but I can't let the stiltgrass set seed or it's Katie bar the door back there. (And of course, there are no listings for when devil's grandmother goes to seed.)
Anybody got any better ideas, or suggestions on transplanting wildflowers? The stuff has stems like iron and I can't pull it up, so I suspect I'd be transplanting fairly large hunks of dirt along with it.
X-posted to gardening