Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Weed by Any Other Name


What makes something a weed?  Interestingly enough there is no botanical definition for a weed.  Instead, it is a term that is generally used to describe any plant that is growing where it is unwanted.  Usually the plant is growing in a human controlled setting, is fairly aggressive, and is a nuisance.  Just about anyone who has a lawn or garden has identified one or more plants as weeds, even if they did not know any other name for them.  And there are some plants, like dandelions, that are almost universally identified as being a weed.

Grape Hyacinth

But not all weeds are so universally recognized.  What one person might consider an ornamental flower, their neighbor considers a weed and tries to eradicate.  The best example of this for me is the Grape Hyacinth.  At my house they grow everywhere.  Some of the lawns are so thick with them that it is dangerous to mow; the ground gets so slimy that it is hard to get good footing.  In the lawn I have generally ignored them, other than mowing them down with the rest of the weeds and the grass.  It is in the flower beds though that I have fought a losing battle for the past 20+ years.  The best I have been able to do is to minimize their numbers and keep them from completely taking over many of the beds.  It just seems impossible to find all of the tiny little bulbs.

Yet I see nurseries selling pots of Grape Hyacinths.  And obviously many unsuspecting people must buy them and plant them in their gardens.  To me, that is akin to picking a dandelion seed pod and gently blowing it out over your lawn.  I even had friends think they were doing me a favor by bringing me a pot of them as a gift.  Pretty sure they got thrown away.

Bluebells

Bluebells are another blub that grows pretty prolifically around my place.  Most of them are indeed blue, although some are also white or pink.  And they are indeed a pretty plant.  But they grow everywhere without bounds.  After a 20 year fight I think I am about to surrender to this pest though and limit my attacks to just a few of the beds where they don’t fit in.

Columbine

A few years ago I bought a few Columbine plants and put them alongside the apartment.  The next year I had several new Columbines coming up within about 20 feet of the originals.  Now, about 5-6 years later they pretty much come up all over the front gardens as well as in the driveway.  They are fairly easy to control and not overly prolific, so I generally let them grow; but weed status could easily be in their future.

Lupine

Two years ago I planted some wildflower seeds in a front bed.  Included in that mix were a few Lupine seeds.  The next spring, I noticed that all of the original plants were coming back, along with several dozen more.  I let them go and the garden was beautiful.  This spring, all of last year’s plants are back, all the cracks in the driveway are filled with new little plants, and the nearby lawn is full of little Lupine starts.  Have they now become the latest weed?

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