One Man’s Weed…

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viola sororia

…is another man’s wildflower.   It all depends upon your perspective.  Simply put, a weed is “a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.”  That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad plant; it just means that it showed up someplace it shouldn’t have — usually in our beautiful grass lawn or manicured flower beds.  And as a general rule, it’s a tough plant to get rid of because of its hardiness and ability to survive.  There are dozens of products in lawn and garden centers created just for keeping your lawn weed-free; in fact, Horizon Landscape has several programs designed to target lawn invaders, both the growing kind and the crawling kind.

NJ-violet-300x209[1]The most common ‘weeds’ I’ve seen in recent weeks are clover, dandelions and the violet which is, in fact, New Jersey’s state flower.  Long before the rolling green lawn became the status symbol of suburban prosperity, these nuisance plants already had a special place in botanical history.  As a matter of fact, they are all considered edible, and each has been reported to have medicinal properties.

Here’s a tidbit on each:

 

 

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Clover: or Trifolium, has 245 registered species, according to Wikipedia.  The two that are most common in Bergen County are the white and red varieties.  They are very pretty when they bloom, but they attract bees, which is why most people don’t want them in their lawns.  Their botanical name comes from their having three leaves, or trefoil, which is also the official symbol of the Girl Scouts of America.  The Irish shamrock is also a trifolium variety, although here in the US, the oxalis (wood sorrel) is most often sold around St. Patrick’s Day instead.

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Dandelions and clover share the spotlight.

Dandelion: the very name strikes fear in the hearts of lawn-lovers everywhere, and for good reason – the root of the dandelion grows so deeply down into the soil that, unless the entire taproot is removed, it will grow back.  Even the gentlest breeze can make the fluffy white seed head burst and scatter.  But the dandelion has a history that goes as deep as its roots, from salads to wine, medicines, and even as a substitute for coffee.  Of course, with all of the pesticides and herbicides used on our lawns these days, I would caution you not to use your backyard dandelions in recipes, but I do think it’s fun to look them up.  Some of us in the office have memories of our grandparents using dandelion in the salad and for making dandelion wine.  There are a number of dandelion wine recipes online, but some of them date back long before we cared about bacteria and food safety, so I wouldn’t be too quick to try one without proper research.

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Violets and dandelions are often seen together.

Violet:  It’s no wonder the violet is New Jersey’s state flower.  According to the Native Plant Society of NJ, there are 17 species of violets that are native to the state, 15 of which are native to Bergen County.  They usually appear in mid April, and continue to bloom through May and often into June.  The plants have heart-shaped leaves, and the flowers come in a variety of purple tones  The viola sororia, which is the actual state flower variety, is usually either all purple or is white that almost appears to be a very light lavender with a deep purple center, looking very much like a tiny pansy.  And it’s no wonder that violets and pansies look alike – the pansy is a hybrid of the wild viola.

In Victorian times, flowers were given meanings,  so that if a gentleman wanted to show his feelings to a young lady, he used specific flowers to convey the message.  Our weedy friends actually have sweet meanings associated with them – white clover says “I promise”, dandelion declares faithfulness and happiness, and the violet proclaims “I will be true”.

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Hi, remember me? Don’t worry, I’ll be back.

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, how thoughtful it would be for a man to give his wife a basket of white clover, yellow dandelions and blue violets, thus declaring that he is happy and promises to be true!  That is, if she can get past the fact that in the modern era, what she’s really getting is a basket of weeds………….

And so, the debate continues.  Weeds or wildflowers – what do you think?  I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.  And I’d love to hear your thoughts about other flowers that have been labeled ‘weeds’.  Drop me a comment below, or email me.

And to Laurie, Debbie, Joanne, Erin, Christine and the wives of all our employees,

Happy Mother’s Day!