Dandelions, the bane of the master lawn keeper. Tiny balls of yellow peeking from rough, pointy leaves dotted across the once neat tidy field of grass. The yard is a battleground and homeowners arm themselves with chemicals to destroy their enemy. The bees don’t mind the mess though. The yellow petals turn into tiny, white puffs; seeds with wings that children use to make wishes.
I grew up learning that there are annoying no-good plants called weeds and that everyone hated them. No one wanted weeds, they wanted roses and carpets of grass. But when I started to study local plants, urban gardening, and gardening from the middle ages, I was informed that many if not all weeds were actually useful. In some cases, the weeds were uninvited guests brought to the land by the very people who grew to hate them, known as invasive species. Some weeds are the natives, and the landscape we try to force onto our lawns is actually unnatural. We created the war against weeds. Check out the next natural field you see and note how the grass is only part of the equation. Dandelions, in particular, were once known as a “common herb”. When consumed they provide nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. The petals can be turned into tea, jelly, balm, and wine. Their leaves can be harvested when young to use in salads. You don’t have to believe me, learn more here: Taraxacum Wiki.
The lawn devil is actually food. This unwanted even hated thing, I learned, is actually useful. I think they are beautiful, too. There are even pink ones.
Learning all this changed my perspective not only about plants I didn’t invite but also how I see myself and others. Some of us are weird. I’d dare say most of us are weird. Most of my life I’ve felt like an outsider for one reason or another, meaning I can relate to the feeling a weed might have if they could think as we do – I’m not welcome, I don’t belong here, and I’m odd. Yet, plants labeled as weeds are often viewed that way because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time or colliding with the desired norm. This acknowledgment that weeds are not evil, just a point that shows what context the viewer is living in, help me accept the part of me that is often the outsider. In a sense, I’m a weed. From the outside, I may appear like a bright yellow ball of what-are-you-doing-here, but I still bring something to the table, liked or not. Now, I love dandelions and what they symbolize in my personal story. Surely I’m not the only person who has ever felt like a weed or outsider or weird. We “weeds” should be proud, not ashamed. We symbolize freedom, self-expression, and individuality.
Do you still hate weeds or could you change your perspective and how you interact with them? Do you ever feel like a weed? What are common non-native plants in your area and what could you do about them? Are there common plants that we should learn to utilize in a different way?
Are you a proud weed?