A weed by any other name…

By MaryAnn

Early one morning I was  digging weeds. That’s right, digging. For me, it’s more rewarding to get the whole plant, roots and all. These grow along the edge of my driveway in some wonderful soil where I would rather plant daylilies. Or at least something besides weeds.  Look–I even took a picture so you can see it too: the ones with the tall blooming  spike.

This one remains anonymous–I don’t even know its name.

But then, there are plenty of weeds I like, and I have even transplanted some to my garden: especially hawkweed, which has a beautiful buttery yellow flower, and butterfly weed, whose orange blossom attracts butterflies, of course.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs, although we don’t see it much anymore. Here’s a link to a New York Times article explaining why:


Some weeds apparently have few, if any, redeeming qualities. The dreaded Japanese knotweed is one example. According to the USDA, this exotic invasive was introduced to us in the 1800s, and has lived happily ever after, spreading wherever it chooses.


Along with kudzu and multiflora rose, these plants have taken over many parts of the southern United States.

Here’s a photo of  kudzu taking over Atlanta!

Last but not least, there’s the lowly dandelion, perhaps the most widely-recognized weed of all.

When I was a child, my father paid the neighborhood kids to pick dandelions from our yard. That’s right–a penny for ten, a dime for 100. His theory was that if we picked the flowers before they went to seed, they wouldn’t spread across the yard. Needless to say, we quickly found other ways to earn money and the dandelions continued to riot.

In any case, your Fontana Regional Library has lots of resources to help you deal with your own weeds. Take a look at  A weed by any other name and Weeds : in defense of nature’s most unloved plants. Both of these books promote the advantages of weeds as plants that just happen to be growing in the wrong place.

Here’s another idea for using weeds: Eat the weeds embraces edible wild plants. Or if you really, really don’t want weeds at all, try the techniques in  Weedless gardening. Another book along the same lines is  Lasagna gardening : a new layering system for bountiful gardens: no digging, no tilling, no weeding, no kidding!

Perhaps you have ulterior motives for using your weeds. Here’s a volume guaranteed to help: Wicked plants : the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother & other botanical atrocities.

Whatever your attitude towards these plants, your library has the resources to help you make the most of your weeds!