As my classmates and I stand before a real prairie like the type we have been reading about, my professor makes it a point to say, “Plants will never lie to you.” After, he went on to point it how we could read the landscape as being a healthy one versus an unhealthy one. He pointed out the flowers that are often delicate and need a specific type of environment to thrive. Some plants can live in very damp soil while others prefer a little dryness and minimal moisture. He also goes on to point out the pretty plants we often find in our landscapes that are great at blending in with all of the “real” nice flowers, those that actually belong in a prairie landscape. All of this came to mind while I read Michael Pollan’s Weeds Are Us.
Ever since I became curious about working in the yard, I was always told to pull out the weeds and shown which of all the plants the weeds were. Now that I think back, I was never taught what the flowers were called but I knew how to distinguish a good green from a bad within a summer. I am sure I wondered how they ever got there if the person I was pulling weeds for clearly did not invite them. After reading Weeds Are Us, I actually sympathize with these plants.
“If we confine the concept of weeds to species adapted to human disturbance,
then man is by definition the first and primary weed under whose influence all other weeds have evolved.”
– Jack R. Harland in Crops and Man
Weeds were never native to the landscape to this country before the puritans arrived. They only grow and thrive in places where man has disturbed the land enough that native plants can no longer easily survive while weeds can. It is true when I recall the places where I see weeds growing the most. They arise from the cracks in the asphalt and pavement. They grow along the edges of buildings and in turf grass that has not yet been treated to get rid of weeds. We are in fact their creators and ignorantly struggle in vain to rid our desired landscapes of them. For these reasons, I feel that unless you are attempting to restore the landscape to what its native state would be you should be more patient with the weeds that come up before the rosebush. I feel that these guys deserve a chance or at least the time to be dealt with if you are providing the right environment for them unintentionally. I will no longer feel guilty about admiring the clovers, the dandelions, and the Queen Anne’s lace I come across. I will not refer to them as “wild” either as I have just learned that it wasn’t until the Puritans came over and expanded “civilization” that these plants arose.