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Image: Weeds growing in the cracks of a sidewalk, and a pair of floral patterned rain boots.

Stop and Smell the…Weeds? A Reminder that Wonder is All Around You!

Weeds. Pesky little things. They crack your sidewalk, make your garden look messy, spread like wildfire, and are so, so hard to get rid of for good. We put so much work into getting rid of weeds. From landscape fabric to herbicide, the weed control industry was worth $28.2 billion in 2018. 1 But… what if we thought about weeds differently? What if they could help us reconnect with the wonders of nature, even in the most concrete of jungles or most manicured of lawns?

Is it possible that we have been wrongfully hating weeds for years, seeing their ability to grow anywhere as a great nuisance instead of a remarkable feat? 

Now, I’m not here to tell you to let your garden and lawn run wild with weeds or that they should be allowed to destroy sidewalks and roads, but if we put aside our loathing for just a few minutes, we might just see them for what they are… miraculous.

Image: Weeds growing in the cracks of a sidewalk, and a pair of floral patterned rain boots.
Source: Unsplash

What makes something a weed?

As the Earth evolved over millions and billions of years, there was no such thing as a weed… there wasn’t a word for it. There were simply plants. Today, weeds are only pesky because we have decided they are. So why not decide they aren’t?

Weeds are simply plants that are not valued where they are growing. Plants that despite even the greatest odds have found a way to thrive.. Check the cracks between the concrete in even the most busy places, and you’ll find patches of resolute green finding a way to thrive. In our backyards, farms, and fields, dandelions, clovers (including the four-leaf ones) and crabgrass sprawl across acres, surviving despite our distaste for them.

And honestly, there has never been a better study in resilience. Weeds are universally hated, widely killed and ripped out root and stem, and yet, they remain. Evolving for hundreds of years to not let the haters get them down, weeds simply persist, no matter the circumstances. Their presence is a constant reminder that nature, and its remarkable adaptability, is never far away.  

Here’s a deeper look at the so-called “weeds” we encounter, and a masterclass in thriving in unlikely circumstances, as we go about our lives in this BBC film featuring the beloved broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough.

Via: BBC 2

Thank you, BBC, for this great video! For more, check out the BBC YouTube channel.

So on your next walk down the street, keep an eye out for these resilient little wonders  sprouting from the sidewalk, or growing in the walkway in front of your house. Maybe take a second, to give them a deeper look. Even if traffic is whizzing by behind you, you now have the opportunity to be inspired by nature, if only for a moment.

A note… 

Now, it is important to note that there are such things as “bad” weeds, especially by way of invasive species. These non-native plants don’t have insects or diseases to control their growth the way they would in their natural habitats, and their unstoppable spread pushes out and eradicates native species.. For our U.S. based readers, here’s a guide to 10 of the most invasive plant species stateside, and what to do when you spot them.

But native weeds? Those are a different story.

You don’t need to groom your lawn to the n-th degree, and you don’t have to think of weeds as pests. In fact, native plants are good for everything around you. From saving the bees to feeding the bunnies, weeds are incredibly important for the ecosystem in your backyard. So protect those native plants and species! Leaving the dandelions alone is something we all can do, and if you’re embarrassed, put a sign up! My friend has one that says “Don’t mind the weeds, we’re feeding the bees!” A sweet sign like this is a great way to spread the word about the importance of these plants, too. 

For a deeper look into why weeds are so crucial, check out this article next: 

Weeds are a Good Thing! Why the Biodiversity in Your Backyard Matters

It’s difficult to fully comprehend the stunning complexity and diversity of life on our planet, and even more difficult to understand how deeply that complexity and diversity matters. Ready for a deep dive into why biodiversity matters? Read on to see how you can help the planet by starting in your own backyard!

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

And to dip your toe in all the wonder you might overlook in your day to day life, take a look at this one:

Turn off Autopilot: See the World with Fresh Eyes Using Street Wisdom

How often are we on autopilot when we are on our routine commutes? When was the last time you really noticed your surroundings as you walked through downtown? Did you really notice the sounds of the birds when you walked into your backyard to tend the garden? We spend so much time getting from one place to another to “do things” that we hardly ever look at the spaces between those tasks and see their richness. Here’s how we can change that with Street Wisdom.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

All in all, it’s not that you should let the weeds take all the energy that your garden would otherwise put towards the tomatoes. But maybe, when you stop and wonder about what grows under your feet, it might just add a little awe to your day. 

  • Ellen

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Published: November 28, 2022

Image: Ellen Allerton

Ellen Allerton

Chief Operating Officer

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2020 and returning home to Vermont, Ellen found that helping make the world a better place with the Goodness Exchange team was just where she wanted to be. You can usually find her watching television while getting crafty, on the ice as a figure skating coach for 10-14 year old's, or in her inflatable kayak named Heidi. She's quite the film nerd and quite the cook, and likes it best when those two things - movies and food - coincide.

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