Welcome to the wonderful world of weedy plants!
Weeds are superevolutionary products of human civilizations and activities - without humans there would be no weeds, just wild plants.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flower bombs

A UK company has invented and are selling a fantastic idea: flower bombs.  They are clay hand grenades filled with flower seeds that you can launch into abandoned urban plots.  Interestingly enough the seeds in the bomb are three species often considered to be weeds (but not invasive): poppies (Papaver), buttercups (Ranunculus),  and ryegrass (Lolium).  All three will self-seed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

No more foraging in NYC parks

An article in today's New York Times describes how the park department is planning to crack down on foraging for edible plants (and animals) in the city's parks.

"....New Yorkers are increasingly fanning out across the city’s parks to hunt and gather edible wild plants, like mushrooms, American ginger and elderberries. Now parks officials want them to stop. New York’s public lands are not a communal pantry, they say." (source)

Not all are weeds of course, but many are, and some are also invasive. Personally I think a total ban is wrong, because I want kids to pick a raspberry, and if the Chinese want to gather the smelly ginkgo fruits, let them!  And if the "edible weeds crowd" want to reduce the invasive Japanese knotweed by cutting the young edible spring shoots, that is certainly better than spraying with pesticides later. But hauling turtles out of the park is a different thing.  So as usual, the issue is not as straightforward or black and white as we would like it to be.  It always amazes me that it is illegal to pick mushrooms in America's National Parks for example. Is it better that the mushrooms rot away?  I think it is better that people get closer to nature understand its value, limitations and dangers than that we coop up nature behind laws and bars and signs that tells us to stay away from all green things.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vinegar and hot water

Two really good ways to kill any plant, weed or not, is to either pour boiling water over it or spray it with vinegar.  It works.  Here is a link to a vinegar killing evaluation, and the boiling water I have used myself.  Just boil some water in a tea kettle and then pour it over the weeds in the driveway.  Much better than store-bought chemicals.

After the spraying....

weed kill with poison by Vilseskogen
weed kill with poison, a photo by Vilseskogen on Flickr.
...the roadside is no longer alive. Seen in Franklin Township, along Cozzens Lane.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Richard Mabey interview on NPR

British author Richard Mabey was interviewed by NPR about his new book and it was aired yesterday.  He has a refreshing take on weeds, or as NPR phrases it: "In Defense Of Botany's Cockroach".  I am not sure I would call weeds cockroaches at all, because first weeds do usually not live inside our houses, and second, do not usually run over our foods and clean counters and spread germs and disease.  Weeds are a lot better than cockroaches.  They are more interesting too, and I say this from personal experience after living in a cockroach infested apartment in the Bronx in the 1990s. (We had mice, bats, snakes and squirrels intermittently in the apartment too, but that is another story for another time).

"And while many might think of them as pests, British nature writer Richard Mabey prefers to think of them as "vegetable guerrillas" and "forest outlaws." Mabey's new book, Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants, is a spirited defense of weeds."

Read the interview, is is great.   Mabey also correctly points out that the most weedy species on earth is in fact, us humans:

"Weeds, as a type, are mobile, prolific, genetically diverse. They're unfussy about where they live, adapt quickly to environmental stress, use multiple strategies for getting their own way," Mabey writes in his book. "It's curious that it took us so long to realize that the species they most resemble is us."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Squeezed barnyardgrass

weed in tight place by Vilseskogen
weed in tight place, a photo by Vilseskogen on Flickr.
This annual grass plant (barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crus-galli) is really in a tight spot, on the wall of a raised bed.  But it is doing great, after managing to sink at least some of its roots into the soil on the other side of the boards through the tiny crack.

Species:  barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crus-galli, Poaceae

Friday, July 1, 2011

What is a weed anyway?

Any plant can be a weed, it just depends on the local circumstances.  There is no special biological attribute that makes a plant a weed.  Weeds are just plants we (humans) do not want at that particular place.  This could be because we are trying to grow something else, that we think they look ugly, they might be poisonous, the might take over and crowd out other plants and change the ecosystem habitat, or we might think they are just wrong.

Weeds are a human mental construct - without human agriculture and horticulture or dwellings on earth there wouldn't be any weeds.  There would just be plants...

So, in our rather selfish pursuits we tell the plants that like to live in 'our' places, that they are unwanted (=weeds) and should be eradicated.

Some definitions:

A plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.

A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.

A valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop. Any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted.

Any plant that is growing in a place where a human wants a different kind of plant or no plants at all.

Any plant growing where it is not wanted.

A wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.