Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learn to like weeds

Naturalist Richard Mabey believes that weeds are misunderstood. "Weeds present us with an opportunity to look at boundaries in nature – the boundaries between the wild and the cultivated. It is an anthropological distinction which we all operate around. An enormous number of weeds have led to valuable medicines. The nightshade family and the thorn apple crop up in plenty of people's gardens, but they would be regarded as extremely objectionable invaders despite their value in modern medicine.

But the real usefulness of weeds is the attempt to vegetate disrupted earth – that is, in a sense, their ecological role. If there weren't such plants on the planet there would be nothing to start the succession of spoilt ground back to more complex vegetation. We spend an enormous quantity of our agricultural and gardening budgets on weed control, and the chemicals used do unquantified damage to all kinds of other creatures, possibly even ourselves, and the plants we're doing this to are obviously blameless. Like any other species, we need to control our environment to make it tolerable for us to live in. But it would be easier, cheaper and more environmentally sound if we accepted our responsibility in the generation of weeds – and we might find it much more easy to live with them if we did."

Read more : Give weeds a chance

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