The Purpose of (Native) Weeds

This post is dedicated to Tatiana of mycoldprairie, who commented on my last post regarding the purpose of weeds.

Well, there are multiple purposes, actually. I want to first point out that exotic invasive weeds, to me personally, have no other purpose than to rape native lands of nutrients, water, and space and to destroy balanced ecosystems (guess what’s in my yard and why I’m grumpy). BUT, speaking of native weeds in particular, they legitimately have a purpose in their habitat, and as many will point out, there’s not really any such thing as a weed, anyway, other than being an annoying plant to a gardener.

What was mentioned in class last night was that weeds grow first in poor soil, and over time as they die off and decompose, they make the soil more fertile for other plants to move in and establish. True indeed. But weeds also can be valuable food sources for wildlife, through seeds, nectar, leaves, berries, and whatnot. They can serve as erosion control and as shelter to birds, lizards, and other creatures. Some even have medicinal value or food value to humans! They do have their purpose, even if you’d prefer they not be in your yard. Speaking of which, did I really manage to not get any dandelions this year? I guess they were scared off by the rampant evil nutsedge that has found its way into my yard. It has become the bane of my gardening existence. But it too has a purpose — apparently Canadian geese and ducks and squirrels and other wildlife like it. Guess I’m not wild enough to join them in such fondness for the WEED.

Oh, and weeds are also there apparently to teach Tatiana patience. She said it, not me!   ๐Ÿ˜€


10 thoughts on “The Purpose of (Native) Weeds

  1. Wow–thanks for this informative post! I’m embarrassed to say the only good purpose for weeds I’d thought of before was erosion control.
    Nutsedge is THE most evil, I agree. We still have to excavate it almost weekly, but we were able to greatly reduce the amount we had two years ago by diligently extracting the nuts every weekend.

  2. Great post, but I still hate them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sometimes, it’s hard to be organic. We do have some incredible natives around the house, but for the most part, keeping the weeds down without chemical assistance has proven to be tough.
    Off topic, I just got back from Japan, and let me tell you, they don’t garden like weeds have a purpose. I visited the gardens near Shimane prefecture, and I don’t think I saw a weed the whole time.
    The water features made me think about your pond, and the contrasting styles in the water features in our cultures. It was truly amazing.

  3. Well, I think that knowing the reasons why wildlife might accept or even need a certain weed can help us not complain so much when we find it in our garden. It doesn’t mean it isn’t still likely to be pulled, but if you have to wait a day or seven before you pull it, maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
    One of the pictures the lecturer showed during her “Read the Land” talk was of a gorgeous colorful public garden in British Columbia. She asked us whether it looked like a habitat, and though many people’s first reply was yes, she said that there was not a bee, butterfly, or bird in sight at that garden. The cultivars and “clone plants” made from cuttings had completely removed the flowering plants’ ability to produce nectar and/or pollen to support wildlife, and it was beautiful but basically “dead.” It had nothing to offer little creatures, and it couldn’t survive and reproduce without human help. Just something to think about.

  4. Nutsedge is already coming up through the floor on my new garden project 802. Right through the Lumiteยฎ fabric. I have been hand pulling them out for the past week. All of the rain this week, while very welcome indeed, has caused an nearly overnight sprouting of this pesky weed. This one weed cause me more grief than any other.

  5. Weeds do have purpose on earth. They are here to fulfill that task. We allow weeds to thrive on certain section of the garden. I love the fact that pests seldom touch them, suggesting a point that insects and weeds understand each other. There is a weed, we treasure most in the garden, blooming non stop!… and another one, 5 feet tall domesticated wild plant called senduduk, letting out beautiful light purple flowers, allowing nectar collection (the old way) by the bees to continue……

  6. Jacqueline — oh man, right through the Lumite? Nooooooo.
    Bangchik — you’re right, it’s all about balance. Nature is wiser than we are. Look at how plants reestablish after a forest fire. Just amazing.

  7. oh that nut grass! *shaking my fist* it is popping up all over right now. but thank the gods no dandelions here either!
    how are the cantaloupes? i finally have some female flowers and am hoping they pollinated..ahah

  8. I knew it! Patience is a virtue, I suppose ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks so much for the very illuminating post. It does give one a new perspective on weeds, even though I’ll still remove them to the best of my lazy ability.
    Here we’re mainly swamped with dandelions, quackgrass, that spiky stuff, and the odd mystery flower. Unlike the BC garden though, the rest of our yard is a veritable haven for insects. I don’t know many, but for sure have seen bees, wasps, ladybugs, moths and other winged creatures. And of course the spiders to feast on them all, although again, nothing like the beauties you have down south.

  9. Meredith, I always look forward to your posts. You are informative and have such a wit that makes reading your posts so enjoyable. With that being said, this is a good, informative post. We forget about the many benefits weeds are for wildlife. I guess as long as they stay out of my garden, I’ll be happy, but for wildlife may they flourish in the fields and mountains! ๐Ÿ™‚ I see wedding the ironing of gardening. Have a great day!

  10. Hello,
    This really has nothing to do with what I wanted to know.I am trying to find out the fibrous qualities of weeds, and whether or not any of the fibers can be harvested. Maybe some of you science people can help me. Thank you in advance. Patricia.

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