I realize that most of you think weeds are irritating and you may work hard to kill them off. I mean, let's face it. Weeds don't make your lawn or garden look better, So let's look at why weeds are important. For farmers, weeds are considered Mother Nature's crop. They're vital to a healthy soil system. There is a point where farmers have to fight off the weeds in order to let their crops take hold. But once the plants are strong enough to withstand the weeds, most farmers just let those weeds grow, right along with their crops. "Weeds come in all shapes and sizes, both on top and root structure. Some weeds are vines to cover and protect the soil, some are tall and woody, some have thin and abundant roots, like grasses, and some have a single taproot, like a turnip." The thing that separates weeds from garden plants is they grow much faster. They grow faster by design; their main purpose is to build soil. Some species of weeds called pioneer species, not only grow fast, but they produce carbon quickly as well. This carbon, when they die, lasts a long time in the soil, helps build structure, and helps retain water. Weeds have certain nutrients that they absorb from the soil, bring to the top, and release when they die or compost.
Okay. so we know that weeds have a specific purpose and are actually beneficial. Now, let's have a little fun and look at a few odd facts about weeds.
1. After a walk, Swiss engineer George de Mestral observed burs from common burdock stuck to his wool pants and his dog’s fur. A few years later he patented Velcro, an invention inspired by the weed. Who knew?
2. Another fun plant with a similar sticking ability is cleaver. Cleavers are very edible and their roots were used by native Americans as a dye. it is considered to be a very invasive species so should you stumble across some, I suggest that you take photos and leave the actual plant behind!
3. Scientists have discovered that earthworms contribute to the spread of giant ragweed by systematically collecting and burying its seeds in their burrows.
4. Cows that graze on garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) or other mustard weeds produce milk with a garlic flavor. Can you even imagine having a glass of that milk with your favorite cookies...or used in your morning coffee? Eeew! Similarly, wild garlic (Allium vineale) can “flavor” wheat crops and reduce their market value.
5. The garlic mustard plant is another invasive but edible plant. Rumor has it that it makes awesome garlic mustard pesto.
6. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their dead in the leaves of the giant reed (Arundo donax), now one of the worst riparian weeds in the U.S.
7. Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) is said to have helped win a battle. Norsemen came ashore planning to surprise sleeping Scottish forces and removed their boots for a quieter assault. A prickly patch of thistle growing between the two armies is said to have saved the day and became the Scottish National Flower.
I know I wouldn't want to hop in my bare flippers through a patch of thistles, YIKES!
Weeds can also be beautiful. It's worth noting that many spring wildflowers are actually weeds. Weeds, just like people, frogs, and everything else, have their good and bad points. I am of the opinion, live and let live. I hope you found today's weed blog interesting and may be helpful. Please stop by tomorrow for my April calendar of Special Days. Until then,