Why weeds should be welcomed

Why weeds should be welcomed

The mighty dandelion

One of the most easily recognizable weeds — the dandelion — deserves more credit than it's given! Its strong roots can break up hard soil and help make nutrients available for plants with shorter roots. The entire plant is edible and is said to have medicinal properties. Its bright yellow flowers are a vital source of nectar for pollinators — and they can also be used to make dandelion wine.

Why weeds should be welcomed

From field to fork

Lamb's lettuce (the green leaves pictured above) often grows as a weed in wheat fields, but it's also a popular salad on plates around the world. It's hardier than regular lettuce and can be harvested for a longer period, making it a gardener's favorite.

Why weeds should be welcomed

Nature inspires

You might recognize the burdock as the plant which clings tightly to your clothes — or your dog's fur — with tiny hooks. Its unique capacity to stick makes the burdock excellent at dispersing seeds — and it's also inspired Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral to invent a fastener that's become ubiquitous since it became commercially available in the late 1950s: Velcro!

Why weeds should be welcomed

Wild and free

A favorite for foragers: wild garlic is easy to identify, plentiful and delicious! Despite its strong garlicky smell, this plant has a mild taste which makes it a great addition to soup, sandwiches and pesto. And its not just flavorsome: wild garlic has antibacterial properties and can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Why weeds should be welcomed

Smart stingers

There's more to nettles than their sharp sting. They're used for making tea, soup and even cheese, and their fibers can also be spun into yarn and used to make fabric. Nettles are rich in nitrogen, making them a great fertilizer for other plants — and they're a haven for ladybirds too. The thin hairs on nettle leaves provide the ideal environment for the bugs to lay their eggs.

Why weeds should be welcomed

Nature's cure

We can't mention stinging nettles without including their soothing counterpart, the dock leaf. If you are stung by a nettle, rubbing a dock leaf on the irritated skin can help. There's no scientific proof behind the remedy, although there's a theory that dock leaves contain 'natural antihistamines.' Others say it's the act of rubbing that soothes the sting. Either way, this humble weed is a gift!

Why weeds should be welcomed

Pest with potential

Water hyacinth is one of the most aggressive invasive plant species, and has spread rapidly in parts of South America, Asia and Africa. It can have disastrous effects on waterways, but some farmers have managed to harness its strength in order to create fertilizer, make paper, and even use the plant as a basis for floating gardens.

Why weeds should be welcomed

A treat for butterflies

The red and orange flowers of the appropriately-named butterfly weed are full of nectar and pollen to attract hoards of the beneficial insects. Also known as orange milkweed, the plant is native to North America. In the past, Native Americans harvested it to weave cloth from its fibers and brew as a tea to treat chest infections.

Why weeds should be welcomed

More than a lucky charm

Resilient white clover is often used as ground cover: it fixes nitrogen into the soil and its root structure helps break up the earth, preventing clumps and protecting against erosion, keeping nutrients in place. Many farmers use it on their fields to improve soil quality — and it's also a favorite food for wildlife and insects, boosting biodiversity.

It might sound like an occasion for a subversive smoke, but Weed Appreciation Day actually serves as a reminder of the plants that often get overlooked — and of course, weeded out — despite their unique qualities.

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