Thursday, April 15, 2010

When Is A Weed Not A Weed?

And just what is a “weed," anyway? It seems cruel to dig up a dandelion in full bloom. It’s like turning the lights out on a beautiful day! It’s just as vibrant, just as joyful in its own way, as say this azalea, isn’t it? Just because it grew voluntarily, with no fertilizer, no special care from me, and puts its sunny face right out there, risking being stepped on by all manner of clumsy, insensitive clods, doesn’t mean I should abuse it further and decline its beauty simply because it wasn’t planned and pampered by me.
No, indeed. Our yard right now is FULL of those very DANDY LIONs. I LOVE them! It makes me focus on the simple things, the things that come my way totally by accident, that color my world, ask for nothing, and humble me with their beauty. They invite me to their potluck celebration, and I didn’t have to bring anything!

Of course the Azalea is a WOW! But have you seen the wild ones that come a little later, that have tucked themselves back in the woods where they’re rarely seen? The orange ones are breathtaking, to be sure! Same with the pink ones. And the Mountain Laurel will soon be visible again, too. Are they weeds?

All are volunteers! No work to cultivate them! They pop out unexpectedly, bringing inner sun to the floor of the woods.

And, of course, who could forget the redbuds that are in bloom all across the Appalachians right now? What a splash they make! No one would call a redbud a weed! Yet, it, too, is a volunteer that creates its own space and asks for nothing.

And the Ajuga...well, it does get a little rambunctious in terms of numbers, doesn't it...but who really cares?  What's wrong with a little more color than one had originally anticipated?  As long as the spaces are taken up by something! 

Then again, just what IS a weed? It seems to me we need to study on this question. Maybe we need an attitude adjustment. Are there any weeds? Truly? Not in my yard! Every flower is welcome. I refuse to deny any. Besides, how interesting or beautiful is a vast expanse of green, blemish-free lawn? Not to mention how much weedkiller it takes to stamp out all these so-called weeds? Oh…and how much gasoline does it take to keep mowing them all summer long? Is it really a “weedy” lawn…or is it a carpet of free flowers, each with unique and special qualities? Where does one draw the line?


  1. I can tell you (from my university days) that a weed is any plant growing where you don't want it. So I don't think you've got any weeds. How's that for good news.

  2. i agree with Ruta's classic definition of a weed as a plant where it's not wanted. i just happen to think there are plenty of plants as unwanted as the earlier referenced birds, in fact many more plants. we've got multiflora rose and stickweed overrunning our pastures, and garlic mustard and many more barging into the woodlands, all viciously displacing the desirables: grasses, legumes, forbs, natives. so much so that i reach a boundary in the weed definition that says, if you can't stop it, it's no longer a weed. it's a fact of life. like so much in modern life, ubiquity enforces acceptance. every resident works her boundaries.
    someone observed that a weed is a plant that has perfected every survival skill but one: the ability to grow in rows. if that precious dandy lion could get Elora gathering its seed and plugging it into the lawn, we could surely have a new named cultivar! chris

  3. Post script about dandelions (UK sp) I looked them up on Wikki as I had memories that they had been introduced into Britain by the Romans as a culinary herb. No confirmation but the leaves are often eaten as a salad and contain lots of vitamins including vitamin H which is said to aid weight loss? That's not counting the diuretic effect of the root leading to the French name of Pissenlit.