Peter del Tredici on wildlife that surrounds us every day, but often has an image problem, goes unnoticed, unattended, unvalued — the weed:
There is no denying the fact that many — if not most — of the plants … suffer from image problems associated with the label “weeds,” or, to use a more recent term, “invasive species.” From the plant’s perspective, invasiveness is just another word for successful reproduction — the ultimate goal of all organisms, including humans. …. The term is a value judgment that humans apply to plants we do not like, not a biological characteristic.
Most people tend to interpret the presence of spontaneous urban vegetation in their neighborhood as a visible manifestation of dereliction and neglect while viewing the same plants growing in a suburban or rural context as “wildflowers.” Clearly the context in which a plant exists has everything to do with how people feel about it.
“Spontaneous urban vegetation,” or the weed, is easier to consider kindly when you examine it this way. I walk by unknowingly, perhaps step on even, lambsquarters on the south end of Prospect Park, then purchase it for several dollars at the north end of the park at the farmers’ market. Sure, the common reed is an invasive here in North America, but in the European range, it’s seen as being in an ecological crisis. Context! It’s curious to consider what else in the world — design, music, architecture, more — might be victim to this kind of weed-accusation when taken out of context.