Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wildflowers or Weeds?

People define what a weed is in many ways. 

My mother has a small sign in her kitchen that reads "A weed is just an unwanted flower".  That's one way.  But what else should you consider?

Take a look at this Goldenrod.
Gorgeous yellow and green blended together en masse.  An interesting shape with tall panicles that spray out at the top.  The heavy sticky pollen is an important source of nectar to honeybees, wasps, flies, beetles and moths.  But where do you often see this lovely flower?  Ditches, hedgerows, abandoned fields.  In other words, weed territory.  But is it a weed?  Solidago is actually native to North America so this plant is not escaped from some other location nor is it invasive.  It's only crime being that it grows wherever it likes and forms large clumps.  I quite like this plant and don't really consider it a weed.  That said I have removed some of it from my yard as it just so happens that it really likes my flower beds.  I would prefer it went to live in the meadow with the other wildflowers.

What about these Daisies?
Everybody recognizes a daisy as a flower right?  Well that depends.  Not all daisies are created equal.  This daisy is actually Chrysanthemum leucanthemum or the Oxeye Daisy.  Often classified as a noxious weed this plant originated in Europe and has moved to North America.  It forms dense colonies and crowds out other native plants.  So as pretty as it is, I would consider it a weed.

Here's another pretty flower springing up all over the yard and coating plants and trees with it's white and pink tinged flowers.
This plant is actually Field Bindweed (the name says it all doesn't it?).  Originating in Europe it has moved into North America and spread itself everywhere.  This vine will cover plants, trees, fences, and houses displacing everything else in it's path.  Incredibly difficult to get rid of as each flower produces seed and each piece of root will produce another plant.  We are very unfortunate to have this plant all around the perimeter of our property.

What about this lovely yellow flower?
This is a form of St. John's Wort and I was certain this was a propogated flower when I saw it coming up in my flower beds next to the Maltese Cross.  What a pleasant combination!  And then we went for a bike ride last weekend and I saw this plant in every ditch and roadside and realized this wasn't a purposefully planted flower at all!  In fact many areas consider St. John's Wort a high risk invasive weed.  Now I have to rethink that flower bed.

Our meadow is simply covered with White Yarrow at this time of year.
It smells wonderful and looks great with it's fluffy leaves and large white flowers.  I thought for sure this was a native wildflower.  When I checked I was correct, yarrow is native to North America.  It attracts beneficial insects like predatory wasps and acts as an activator to speed up decomposition in compost piles.  But then I saw something interesting.  Buried in the flower bed underneath a bunch of grass I found a plant tag.  For White Yarrow.  Could it possibly be that this plant escaped from the flower bed into the meadow?  How would you classify this plant then, flower or weed?  It's a conundrum.

Another vine that seems to be getting into everything.
These plants surround my apple orchard climbing up and around.  They have small purple flowers and red berries in fall.  Almost sounds kind of nice.  They are in fact Climbing Nightshade or Solanum dulcamara.  Like the Bindweed they reproduce by seeds and roots.  This plant is poisonous and is considered a weed in most areas.  Introduced from Europe it has spread throughout North America where it takes over areas that would otherwise be habitat for native plants.  Another weed to be removed.

I guess if I had to tell you what I learned today it would be this - before you randomly throw a plant in the weed category, find out what it is and what it's doing in your garden.  You just might be surprised.

Today's post was inspired by Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone.  For more wildflower posts please visit here.


  1. Marguerite, What a good post! It really is all about one's perspective! I love seeing goldenrod massed in a field~I know that earlier the ironweed bloomed and earlier still other wildflowers like butterfly weed fed the critters. But, it can certainly be a pest in a garden bed! Hypericum frondosum is a native in TN and I love the yellow flowers....There's an exotic version that is quite aggressive!

    So glad you joined in the wildflower celebration~


  2. Absolutely, some look at my spring garden full of foxglove and complain that it must be a pain to keep those weeds out. I planted those ;)

    The golden rod is breathtaking!

  3. I love seeing many of your wildflowers that I have growing in our garden.
    May all your weeds be wildflowers.

  4. A wonderful post, your weed is a flower to someone else. Interesting complaint. Take care.

  5. You make a good point about wildflowers growing in the flowerbeds. I do have goldenrod growing in my garden. I enjoy its yellow colour. I let the odd oxeye flower too. Before they become a nuisance and reseed themselves everywhere I remove it. If I do not want it coming back in the compost I bag it for the town to remove.

  6. Gail, thank you very much. I'm very glad to have found you!

    Laura, when we lived on Bowen Island the roadsides were absolutely covered in foxgloves. Such an amazing sight. I guess that's why some people might think they're weedy, although, what a weed!!! silly people.

    Crafty Gardener - so glad to hear that you appreciate these wildflowers also.

    Garden of Threads - and someone else's weed is my flower. What a convoluted line between weed and flower we have woven!

    Sandbox - as you can see I haven't had the heart to remove the daisies despite their prolific habits. I have a soft spot for such a sunny face.

  7. I have been seeing goldenrod for a week or two, but you are much farther north.

    The wild ones are my favorites, so all of these look good to me.

  8. I'd take them all but the bindweed and nightshade but you are right, it is really a matter of perspective. Beautiful goldenrod!

  9. Great perspective! I guess it can be said that a weed is in the eyes of the beholder.

  10. Sandy - You're right, things are a little slower up here. Even so, goldenrod is a late summer plant and I can't believe we're nearing the end of summer already!

    Tina - It's funny, when my mother visited recently she quite liked the "morning glories" all round our property. I think she's the only person I know who appreciates the beauty of bindweed.

    Mereduit - Thank you! Being new to this property I've watched each plant come up and had to make a decision whether it stays or gets pulled. Sometimes it's not an easy decision.