Into the Weeds
Frustrating, back-breaking, pokes and prickles, these are the vocabulary words of weeds. But, what makes a weed a weed? Why do we cultivate some plants and pull others?
What we think of as our backyard weeds can be more adequately labeled as invasive species. Invasive species are those, in this case plants, that are non-native to the area, aka your backyard, and grow quickly and reproduce rapidly (Natural Resources Conservation Science, 2017). But don't let that give all non-native plants a bad rap, being a non-native plant doesn't mean that it is an invasive species (Natural Resources Conservation Science, 2017). Like a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares. An invasive plant is a non-native, but not all non-native plants are invasive.
But why are invasive so bad? Again, why do we cultivate some plants and pull others? Can't I just let my lawn turn from green grass to a field of dandelions? Well, dandelions are pretty cute and edible too, so yes you can. A weed is just a weed because so it has been named, or as Shakespeare put it "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But there are common characteristics to the plants that have been given the title of weed: they establish quickly, produce a lot of seed, their seed can lay dormant in the soil for many years, and they can establish in the most inhospitable lands. And the plants that have been given the additional title of "invasive" have even more of these deleterious qualities, with the ability to take over entire landscapes and smother out all other plants in their path. Invasive species create homogenous landscapes lowering biodiversity and ecosystem functions (Natural Resources Conservation Science, 2017.
As you look across your garden you may see many beautiful non-native plants. And this doesn't mean you need to go pulling out all of those! Only the invasive ones, and I'm here to help.
Canada Thistle, Field Bindweed, and Cheatgrass, these are three common and toughest invasive species that we have in my local region, Colorado, and which span the entire United States. The slideshow below will take you through each of their life history strategies, showing you; how they got here, how their adaptations make them invasive, and best of all how we can use their own adaptations against them to conquer the weeds and take back your backyard!
now lets get into those weeds!
Morishita, D. (n.d.). » WSSA » Weeds » Articles on Garden Weeds » WHAT MAKES A WEED. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from http://wssa.net/wssa/weed/articles/wssa-what-makes-a-weed/
Natural Resources Conservation Service. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2017, from https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ct/technical/ecoscience/invasive/?cid=nrcs142p2_011124
through the weeds
But, the issue is greater than that of your backyard. How can we join others in our community? If you live in Colorado you can help by plotting GPS coordinates of where you find invasive species by using the "Weed Watch" map and "Spotter Form" from the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Now that you've ripped, weeded, and combatted those pesky invasives you may be wondering "What's next?!" Well you are a plant ninja, certified to fight the good fight against invasive plant species. In the comments below tell me you're winning the fight, and let me know what invasive weeds you want me to focus on next!
But...before you go off