Weed is a Four-Letter Word

by Lisa Rosen on April 26, 2011

That’s a Carolina Jessamine vine.  It’s growing up the front of our house.  Isn’t it pretty when it’s in bloom?  Back when we bought our first house, my great-aunt Geraldine gave me a cutting from a Carolina Jessamine plant that she’d had for years.  I planted it by the mailbox, and it grew like gangbusters.  Last time I happened to drive by that house, that old vine was a mass of beautiful yellow blooms.

I didn’t plant this one, though.  It just appeared in our yard; as a matter of fact, it’s still kind of puny-looking.  I hope it’ll flourish.


I don’t like the word weed, especially the way it’s used in the ‘burbs.  I mean–think about it.  What is a weed, exactly?  If you tell me you’re embarrassed about the weeds in your yard, and then you go out and dig up all the dandelions, I’m going to point out that a) those bright yellow flowers are pretty, b)  those fluffy white seed heads are great fun to play with, and c) the leaves make a very nice (and nutritious) salad.  Who says it’s a weed?

Obviously, if you dislike dandelions for some reason, you have every right to pull them up.  I can certainly understand why–they have annoying long tap roots, and those fluffy white seed heads enable them to reproduce like nobody’s business.

I just don’t like the typical suburban assumption that any plant that doesn’t match the grass, or the landscaper-shrubs or the mass-planted pansies is automatically a weed.  Lee is particularly guilty of this mindset.  Occasionally he’ll glance out the kitchen window (his observations are all made from the safety of a window, because he doesn’t actually go outside), and point to a particularly dense green patch, and ask, “Is that a weed?”

“Of course not,” I respond.  “It’s lemon balm”  (or feverfew, or soapwort, or blackberries).  For whatever reason, this nomenclature trick works with most people.  Non-plant people seem to think that if it has a name, it must not be a weed, and vice-versa.

No.  A weed is a plant that is growing in a place where I don’t want it to grow.  It could be a dandelion, or it could be a rose bush.  It might need to be dug up, chopped into little pieces, and then burned (but only if I’m having a really vindictive day), or maybe it just needs to move to a different part of the yard.

Those wildflower seed mixes that you see at the garden center?  The ones with the pretty pastoral scenes on the packet?  They’re full of “weeds”–stuff that grows wild and naturalizes easily.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

I happen to think that most plants are basically nice.  I’m not a fan of poison ivy–or even English ivy, actually, because in my experience it grows like kudzu, and overwhelms everything, but the English ivy in our yard?  We spent a fortune having it planted, so it’s definitely not a “weed,” meaning I’m not allowed to rip it all out and throw it in the compost pile.  I also don’t care for the baby trees that tend to sprout all over our yard, just because we don’t have room for any more trees, so I try to pull them up before they get too big.

Otherwise, I’m really of the live-and-let-live school of thought.  Weed is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelia April 27, 2011 at 7:09 am

I love this post. I love the live and let live attitude. I think it’s why I like you so much. 🙂


Lisa Rosen April 27, 2011 at 7:42 am

Thanks, Amelia! 🙂


Sonja Foust April 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

I love yellow jasmine. My neighbor has a bunch of it growing up over her white picket fence. I’m now considering borrowing some and planting it by my mailbox. 😉


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