Wildflowers vs Weeds

“May all of your weeds be wildflowers” ~ unknown

This is a picture of Orange Hawkweed. Each flower is made up of small delicate petals that look like orange dipped paintbrushes. If we assume that this plant was aptly named, it would be classified as a weed. Does it look like a weed to you? Authorities say it is a highly invasive species (not native to MN) and that it first arrived in Duluth and is now spreading quickly throughout the State. Its a plant that looks like a flower, but is classified as a weed.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

How about this one? In your opinion, is it a weed? It is called White Campion and it is a widely distributed “weedy” species from Europe. It grows almost anywhere (and everywhere including cracks in concrete and disturbed areas) and each flower disperses thousands of seeds. (officially, it is a weed)

What is your definition of a weed? Maybe your definition depends on what the plant looks like? Or, maybe it has to do with how and where it grows?

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” ~A.A. Milne

This one is called Bird-foot Trefoil (click it to enlarge). It is also classified under invasive species due to the fact it chokes out native wildflowers. These yellow blooms are everywhere right now (July). Clumps of these bright yellow blooms are co-mingling with daisies and red clover and can be seen growing on the edges of most roads (and “on” the road, too). Butterflies, bees and moths love them. They are very pretty .. However, if they are really a weed, should we be eradicating them or loving them, too?


Did you know that Red Clover is not a native plant, either? It was introduced to area by agriculture and grows and spreads like crazy (technical term “escapes cultivation easily”). Is it a weed? Or, does the fact that it is a great crop for hay and feeding live stock move it up to a higher plant/weed status?

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” ~Doug Larson

Here is a puzzle in classification. Goats Beard. It is not a native plant and it easily invades the prairies, however, it also is not aggressive. When it goes to seed, it has a giant dandelion-type plume and spreads with the wind. Would you classify it as a weed or a flower?

As you can see, some “weeds” look nothing like a weed .. they are quite pretty. And, some “weeds” serve a very useful purpose. Not all weeds are the same and I bet some weeds are loved as much as plants classified as flowers. Therefore, the best definition for a weed that I have found is … a weed is a plant growing where we want something else to be growing.

“Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.” ~ Slim Acres

Do you classify a dandelion as a weed or a flower?

How about the plain white (ox-eye) daisy that grows everywhere? It may surprise you to find out that authorities have declared our common daisy as a noxious weed, an invasive species that needs to be eradicated. According to http://www.Minnesotawildflowers.info, “It is not native … it was brought over from Europe in the 1800s. It escaped into the wild and has become an aggressive, invasive breeder, forming dense colonies with its fibrous root system and crowding out native plants. Each flower produces up to 200 seeds.”

Before you decide how you would classify the daisy, take a look at my dewy daisy photo at my photo blog bear in sight

What is your definition of a “weed”?

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~ by bearyweather on July 17, 2012.

11 Responses to “Wildflowers vs Weeds”

  1. Gorgeous…flowers! I don’t consider any of them weeds! I know many of those invasive types are considered a nuisance, but they sure are pretty to look at and the wildlife seem to love them.

  2. We have all of those here, and I consider them flowers. For some reason none of them in this area have over-grown or become obnoxious.

    • I saw them as flowers, too … until I looked them up and read about them. Just in passing or taking pictures of them, they are still flowers to me, too.

  3. I love that Emerson quote. I wish I had been familiar with it and been able to spout it off when my mother (my daughter’s grandmother!) criticized some “flowers” she brought to me. “They’re just weeds!” my mother scoffed. And my daughter, with tears in her eyes said, “Well, they’re pretty to me.” “And they’re beautiful to me,” I told her with a big hug.

  4. I never think of wildflowers as weeds. No, nothing that flowers could ever be a “weed”> I personally dislike the word “weed” when almost every plant shares a gift with us (even invasive species bring their own sacred essence to the mix.) So often truly appreciate the themes of your posts.

    • Thanks Kathy. Lately I have been amazed by all my blogging friends … such great post themes and so active … I am having trouble keeping up. My mind has been a bit busy with other things lately, but hopefully I will blog inspired, soon.

  5. A weed is something growing in my vegetable garden that I don’t want growing in my vegetable garden. Other than that, I mostly love the “weeds” that grow here in the Bogs. The dandelions, the hawkweed, the daisies, even the Canada Thistle that has been considered an invasive pest since the early 1700s. The American Goldfinch loves Canada Thistle (and other thistles). I love the goldfinches therefore I love Canada Thistle too.

    I just discovered Bird-foot Trefoil last summer (I’d never noticed it before). It’s such a pretty, cheerful little flower. It’s hard not to like it.

    Great post, Bearyweather. 🙂

  6. Robin, I like your definition of a weed (very similar to mine). The Canada Thistle grows here, too … but none of them had their pretty purple blooms, yet when I wrote this post. The birds love them, so I leave them alone … I don’t like the prickles … if you want to remove them, it can be painful. So, I am glad the birds love them.

  7. I call them all flowers, really- weed seems more judgmental than is warranted for the natural world 🙂

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