In Defense of Weeds

Like so many things in the natural world, weeds have positive as well as negative attributes.

They are the unwanted, the uninvited. They are seen as uncivilized and common.
The farmer, the gardener, and all who toil in their yards and groom their lawns, see weeds as the enemy. They are parasites; they are a plague.

Not only do they steal precious moisture and nutrients from proper vegetation carefully planted by the farmer or gardener, they disrupt the symmetry and geometry of the project. They are bad for the aesthetics; they ruin the “look” of a meticulously designed garden, plot, lawn or field.
The fact is that weeds are useful; they are essential; they are our friends. For one thing, they heal the wounded earth. Weeds thrive in disrupted soil. Land that is plowed, spaded, hoed, eroded, kicked, burned, scratched, grazed, or trampled, is made inviting for thousands of varieties of growing things. Seeds, bulbs, roots and all manner of propagating materials eagerly await the slightest encouragement from sun and rain and begin to quickly grow over the exposed earth. This carpet of green prevents massive erosion of topsoil, provides a habitat for innumerable tiny living things, and offers forage and feed for both domesticated and wild animals. The early European settlers in North America successfully fed their sheep, horses, pigs, and cattle on any vegetation available—mostly weeds.

As the early Colonists travelers crossed the Atlantic, as they moved inland and began to farm the great interior, they unwittingly carried with them unwelcome fellow travelers from Europe. Sheltered in their clothing, blankets and hair, stuck in the mud on their boots, secreted in fur of their animals, scattered in their flour and meal, were seeds—seeds by the thousands—weed seeds. It is the nature of weeds to propagate and reproduce quickly. In a sense they quickly become “naturalized.” They settle in and make a home in their new land and begin to infuriate the gardener and farmer. It is estimated that roughly 60% of farmland weeds are imports from abroad (Kentucky “blue grass” is not native; it emigrated from the Middle East.). Some are more troublesome than others. Most are easily controlled by physical means of hoeing and cultivation, but others are virtually death-defying. These became the infamous “noxious weeds.”
An official list of noxious weeds for Minnesota alone numbers over 100 (including the charming but somewhat frightening name “mile a minute”). Until the recent use of chemicals that put many of these under control, profitable farming practices were put at risk in many areas of the Midwest. Wild oats, for instance, threatened to destroy corn farming in Minnesota during the 1940s.

Like so many things in the natural world, weeds have positive as well as negative attributes. Bees, despite there willingness to sting us, are absolutely essential for much of our food production; rain storms can flatten the wheat field as well as provide needed moisture. Weeds have their own vital role. Despite their tendency to aggravate us, let’s remember that weeds are indispensable partners on this great, green Earth.Author: EVM STAFF on 05/11 2009
Make A Comment

You are not logged on - your comment will be subject to review by our staff. To avoid this and post comments immediately, log on to your account before posting. No account? create one in 30 seconds! Compose your comment and submit.
(Max 300 characters).

Share legends of the midwest newsletter
Recent articles in: Living All States Get the heck ... Humanties out... Shakespeare i... Cowboy Poetry... Audubon's Neb... North Dakota ... Almont, ND Lu... Grape destroy... Bring Some Ba... South Dakota ... Sweet Potato ... Preparing For... Lean On Me Th... Bring on Fall... Dakotas, Iowa... South Dakota ... Drought condi... An Empty Home... Wisconsin Fil... Trotters, ND... A Mystery wit... Announcing ou... How to Clean ... Celebrate Mom... Ghost Towns i... Kwame Dawes -... Rhubarb : Spr... Reward offere... Civil war ree... Iowa census: ... Introducing t... Notebook: But... New exhibit a... Nebraskans ma... Travel, natur... The richest d... The changing ... Snow hits Nor... Dutch Apple P... What's Going ... 6 Legendary w... Lutefisk wars... North Dakota ... Whereizzit in... Dakota Memori... Commuting tak... Fossils found... Telecommuting... News : Laura ... Enjoy fall fe... Looking for a... Storms wreak ... Aerosmith gui... Wonderful str... Radishes... In Defense of... Badlands Arti... Accentuating ... This month's ... Top 10 Most L... Skijoring all... What's Going ... Happy New Yea... 'Prairie Love... Wisconsin sta... St. Paul Best... Dec 11, Minne... Runaway cows ... Runaway cows!... A recap of th... Dog shot twic... North Dakota ... Wisconsin wri... Star Prairie,... Lincoln, Nebr... Lincoln, Nebr... 1949 UFO Sigh... Dakota Roots ...
Rescue your family's stories forever and contribute to the history vault.

Read how to do it here


Keep up to date
with our newsletter Subscribe!