What Is a Weed?

Several plants have “weed” in their names even though they are welcome in our gardens: Butterfly Weed, Milkweed, Ironweed, Rosinweed, and Spiderwort (“wort” is a German word that is sometimes translated as “weed”).

Of course, nature does not divide plants into “good” and “bad.” Man has done that over the millennia. If certain plants crowded out more marketable crops, then they were considered “bad.”

Nowadays, local weed ordinances prohibit homeowners from allowing weeds to overtake their property because of the fear of litter, rodents, mosquitoes, and fires. But such rigid enforcement has resulted in a look-alike American landscape of grass, usually, that covers 30 million acres (about the size of Virginia) and requires billions of dollars in equipment and chemicals to maintain.

A variety of plants in an ecosystem is highly desirable. Often lawns are imposed on a landscape without regard for the native habitat. As Yost puts it, true gardening, by contrast, is the natural give and take between the gardener and a piece of land.

From “Do You Really Know What a ‘Weed’ Is?” by G. Owen Yost, licensed landscape architect, in Texas Co-Op Power magazine, September 2002.

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