A weed is but an unloved flower. ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I am a weed. Yep. And I am fine with that now. I wasn’t always. It used to bother me, and occasionally the feelings that are associated with that revelation rear their ugly heads, but overall I am fine with being a weed.
Common mullein first year’s growth, a medicinal native plant
Let’s talk a second about what constitutes a weed.
Webster’s Student Dictionary defines weed as, “a plant that you do not want in a garden.” I have also heard it defined as a plant growing someplace you do not want it to grow.
This past year I began exploring my property, learning the names of the wildflowers and weeds growing all over. The property is sorely neglected from years of health issues that left me unable to pull weeds. Our lawn tractor needed repair and was out of commission for a few years so the property that was not the yard didn’t get mowed. Although I purchased an inexpensive push mower and a weed wacker, the yard and property weren’t mowed nearly enough. And my flower beds were almost completely ignored as I didn’t have the energy to keep them weeded. There’s that word again. Weed.
White campion Silene latifolia
The saddest part of all was the fact that the area near the pond and the pond itself were ignored and neglected. I was so sad that the beautiful shoreline with many red maples was left underwater due an increase in the beaver population. They had raised the water level nearly 2 feet. That is a lot of extra water in a pond that is approximately 5 acres. The beaver were very happy. My trees were not. The trees that were not caged were taken down by the beaver and the grass growing along the shoreline died. One tree whose roots had been waterlogged for too long was blown over during a hurricane.
Wild carrot (Daucus carota) BEWARE: do not touch unless you can positively identify wild carrot. POISON HEMLOCK looks very similar and is DEADLY
Last summer I made my way down to the pond after years of not being able to walk that far. I started exploring the property, and I started chipping away at the beaver dam that was placed on top of the man-made spillway (the entire pond is man-made and maintenance of the dam is a part of property ownership). The water started going down. Every few days I returned and chipped away at that damn, making a narrow path for the water to escape from the pond.
Red maple taken down by beaver
As the water receded something magical happened. The shoreline that had been underwater came to life. I noticed plants and flowers that had never lived there before. Or hadn’t been able to live there. Maybe they weren’t compatible with the shade-producing red maples. Maybe the azaleas the previous owners had planted didn’t help. I don’t know. In addition to a large patch of wild indigo, native verbena and many other flowering plants exploded in color and texture. I continued to keep the water level down and all of the wild plants thrived. I hadn’t planted any of those native flowers, and was only able to identify a handful, but I certainly didn’t consider them weeds. They were unexpected. They were not part of a garden or landscape plan. But they were certainly welcome.
Happy wild asters growing down at the pond
I feel as though that describes my life. As a woman who was married for 25 years I discovered that I was treated like a weed. I continually created a feeling of discomfort for my husband and my extended family. I didn’t grow where they wanted me to grow. I didn’t even seem to fit in any garden or landscape plan. I was just too wild. Something deep down inside of me refused to be tamed. I had no control over this part of my personality. It was tied to creativity, an innate curiosity that somehow hadn’t been quashed by years of institutions (school, work, church and marriage).
I was a weed. I kept growing where I wasn’t wanted. No matter what happened I just couldn’t stop spreading, popping up in awkward places, exploring new and amazing landscapes.
Let’s look at this entire theme from a different perspective. What do we call those native plants growing down at the pond, and along the driveway, and behind the shed? They aren’t called weeds anymore by a huge part of the population. They are called “wildflowers” and are even planted by some people. Big bags of wildflower seeds can be purchased and scattered to encourage the increase in native flowering plants in the landscape.
So maybe I’m not really a weed. Maybe I’m a wildflower. You know what? I’m good with either label. I think fondly of weeds because I now know that so many of them contain medicinal and healing properties. Beyond that I think they are lovely. They are tough. They survive conditions that cultivars cannot. They are truly only weeds if they are unwanted.
I might not be wanted by many people that I thought should have really cared, but I am loved and wanted by those who really matter. Just because a person thinks a dandelion is a nuisance and has no value doesn’t mean it has no purpose or value. God made that lowly dandelion, sometimes I think just so He can laugh at the silly humans as they spend millions of dollars to kill them so that they can grow a single kind of grass that appears uniform and tame. I think the main reason people often despise dandelions is because no matter what they do more seeds will be blown upon the wind, carried to a new spot where they can pop up, open their happy flowers, go to seed and dance upon the wind in delight. While many people do not appreciate the lowly dandelion, I believe it has more value than the most expensive hybrid rose. It isn’t all show!
Weed. Wildflower. Self-acceptance is a beautiful thing.