Most people hate weeds, maybe with an exception for Cannabis. I don’t like weeds either but as I turn our little garden patch back to nature, to make it into a sanctuary for other species as well as ourselves, I have to learn to get along with weeds. When I walk through a farmer’s market, I also note that they sell many flowers we usually call weeds. Quite expensively too, for something you would like to get rid of. So, it’s still true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Pollinators love weeds. There is no doubt about it as we try to eliminate them but they continue to proliferate with help from pollinators. Many of these weeds are also edible and have medicinal properties. As I’ve gained more knowledge about them, my perception has changed drastically and I have made room for them in the garden.
Here’s to beautiful weeds…
There are more weeds growing in our garden than what I’ve mentioned above. I’m fascinated by the fact that many of them are edible. I have not tried them all except for wild Daylily and dandelion. I’m also surprised that many of the flowers and herbs in our area are considered weeds someplace else.
Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer
Weeds of the Northeast by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. DiTomaso
Edible Wild Plants: Wild Food From Dirt to Plate by John Kallas, PhD.
Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting,and Preparing EdibleWild Plants by Samuel Thayer
When I first spotted this Helleborine Orchid (Epipactis helleborine)in the garden I thought it was a type of Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum). The leaves look similar, to me anyway. Once it flowered, I realized it’s something I haven’t seen before. After a few searches I discovered that it’s a Helleborine orchid, a non-native and considered invasive in many states. The plant was introduced from Eurasia for medicinal and decorative purpose in 19th century. Another name for this orchid? A ‘Weedy’ orchid. I didn’t know orchids could be weedy.
Invasive or not I love it. This is the first year it grew in our garden. I have no idea where it came from but I’m glad that it decided to settle in our garden. I don’t even have to take care of it. It produces plenty of tiny little orchids on small stems. I didn’t get to smell the flowers so I can’t tell if they are fragrant, but there are ants on them so they probably have plenty of nectar.
It’s a beautiful gift from nature that I gratefully accept.
I have no idea how Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) aka Milkweed came to be in our garden. They just showed up two years ago and have stayed ever since. Getting rid of it proved to be not an easy task, but taming it is quite easy. I just pull the stalk out of the ground.
The first year it showed up, I let it grow without realizing that it would expand outward as its runner travels underground. It’s classified as a weed but I think that’s in the eye of the beholder. Milkweed, for me, is a lovely fragrant flower that I don’t have to take care of. I let Milkweed take up residence in the garden for many reasons. First of all, if you ever smell its flowers you will let it grow too. In a good weather day I merely have to walk by and its perfume finds my nose. The flowers are small and very pretty too.
Milkweed also provides food for Monarch butterfly caterpillars as well. Their population is diminishing since we, humans, are getting rid of Milkweed all along their migration path for the sake of conventional farming. I just hope to be able to save a few, if they are able to get here. I saw a couple of them last year but haven’t seen any this year. I hope it’s because it’s too early for them and not because they didn’t survive.
I can’t ignore how much the bees love the Milkweed’s flowers. The honey bees from our hives don’t have to go too far for their nectar.
And, I can eat them if I want to. I know the liquid that oozes out of the plant will make the skin itch and every part of the plant is toxic if not fully cooked. There are books providing ways to harvest and prepare them, two notable ones are:
The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman
I haven’t tried eating them yet, just sticking with Dandelion and other flowers I know that are edible like wild Daylily and Moonflower. I know if I think long and hard enough I will be able to come up with more reasons for letting Common Milkweed grow in our garden.