Are All Your Weeds Bad Guys?

Weeds are considered the villains of the garden.We curse them on sight and wrench them out by the handful.Certainly, many of them carry pests, crowd out our precious favorite plants and can create fodder for wildfires.But interestingly enough, some of these weeds actually can live a double life.  So, are your weeds bad guys or good guys?

How bad is this weed?

How bad is this plant?

Remember that the definition of a weed is simply a plant that is growing in a location where it isn’t wanted. Now that means you can even find a favorite flower sprouting up in the middle of the lawn or vegetable garden and, presto! It’s a weed!  Of course, these desirable plants are easily transplanted into a garden where they will instantly be re-named. But then there are all those other weedy guys that blow in on the wind and simply aren’t welcome in any part of the garden.

You might want to take a closer look at some of those unwelcome guys. Some actually are rather showy with colorful flowers, interesting leaves and curious forms of growth. I’ve started selecting some of my local hillside invaders for their beauty.If they have the right habit of growth and are colorful, they get to stay. They aren’t allowed to visit my vegetable garden or some of my coveted flower patches, but around the periphery they add easy care décor.They also are food plants for the local wildlife, so allowing some of them access to my property is creating an invitation to some of the more interesting local birds and butterflies.

Another advantage to those vegetative pests – yes, even some of the undesirable imports – is that some of them are actually useful. The invasive dandelion not only grows nourishing young leaves that are tasty in a fresh green salad, but has a root that can be dried and ground up to use as a tasty, hot substitute for coffee. One of these rampant pests of which there is no shortage is that yellow invader that covers the hillsides with its four-petaled, light yellow flowers.  Smothering acres with shiny mustard yellow, these plants are indeed mustard. Try nibbling a flower or leaf and you will taste that familiar mustard flavor. When they seed they will offer up edible mustard seed. And this plant can be used for a number of medical applications, too. One more common weed found all across the country is the Lamb’s Quarters. The uneven lobed leaves are a blue-grey and can be flushed in pink or red. They are low growing annuals with little to recommend them other than that they are easily removed and they also happen to be edible. Like the dandelion, Lamb’s Quarters offer fine leaves to add to the fresh salad.

Native peoples all over the world have been experts at finding medicinal uses for most of the common native plants that we now consider undesirables. Some plants are natural antidotes to each other and tend to grow nearby.For example the common dock weed gives relief from the irritating stings of the stinging nettle that frequently grows in the same area. Medicinal uses of wild plants can fill tomes and there are books that offer information that cover the Los Angeles and Kern County areas. If you are curious about the subject, you can also surf on the internet to find out the uses of any particular native plant growing close to your home.

Also be aware that many of these rampant growing plants can be used for dyes, cleansers, cloth fibers and many more practical jobs. It makes you think twice before summarily ripping out the next uninvited plant you see. One of them may come in handy in the future. You never know!