- our constant companions.
From our earliest attempts at agriculture, weeds have found
opportunity in our fields. They thrive in a world disturbed by digging
sticks, tractors or spade. They mimic our crops, contaminate our
harvest, harbor destructive pests, and gobble up the fertilizer and
water intended for food production. As we expand our management of the
landscape, the weeds follow. They are springing up everywhere, and
spreading. We seem to struggle vainly trying to keep our farms, suburban
landscapes, urban spaces, and wilderness areas free of weeds. The more
we control, the more the weeds invade, the more we must control.
North America, many of plants we call weeds came from Europe. Very few
North American natives have returned the favor to Europe. While we list
one after another of our native species on the endangered roster, the
weeds thrive, even as farmers, grounds-keepers, gardeners, and
homeowners wage intensive chemical warfare.
may be the most common plants we see.
Some are even food plants that have escaped our control. Weeds
are able to thrive in the most in-hospitable environments: trash
littered vacant lots, polluted industrial sites, oil soaked railways,
nuclear waste sites and bone dry gravel road-sides. Watered lawns and
fertilized crop-lands are Elysian fields to the weeds. Despite
generations of eradication efforts, weeds survive and flourish.
Ironically many of them depend exclusively on us for that survival, not
existing outside of the man-managed environments in which we see them.
Some have been with us thousands of years.
with modern transportation, we are creating new weeds every day. They
begin as benign plants that are suddenly transported to a new part of
the world. If this new location suits their growth, but has none of the
usual controls, explosive growth follows.
is not a scientific concept; it is a social one. A weed is usually
defined as a plant out-of-place. We, of course, are the ones deciding
what is or is not in the proper place. Even native plants growing in
their native environment may be weeds. When it is time to “cut the
weeds,” it usually includes everything, invaders and natives alike.
most prevalent weeds have many common attributes. They jump up first,
grow furiously, seed or reproduce prolifically, seem to need little
water or soil, can withstand trampling, repeated cutting, and spraying.
Some have truly awesome powers of survival.
relationship between weeds and people may be one our most enduring
relationships with the natural world. The weeds do not have our sense of
self-consciousness, they do not use tools, they are not capable of
rational thinking, they do not have free will, they can’t even move
after roots are in place. Yet their numbers and colonization parallels
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