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Useful Weeds for Needs


Spray the weeds?
    'Weed' is a state of mind, a plant looking for a use. Cultivated plants can be viewed simply as weeds with some of the wildness controlled or bred out of them. Where is the outrage about miles and miles of corn and wheat fields? Weeds are not always pests. They can be beautiful, tasty and useful. Bias against aliens is no better to plants than humans. Weeds are vital to healthy farmland and wildlife. They can make important contribution as bird feed and cover. Weeds can even be worth more than the crop they're growing amongst as shown by Gonzalez. What we often think of as prickly, poisonous weeds are sometimes there because of human land use practices such as slash & burn, overgrazing. They may be part of the habitat healing process. It is also part of the coping process of a changing habitat. Native and alien are transitory terms until the melting pot melds - Raffles. And then there are the native invasives. Check out Ryan's yard of weeds and Kathy Michels discussion. What may seem like a cute little flower in small numbers in the woods may not seem quite so cute in large numbers when they aggressively take over a garden or farm, unless they have economic value. Even if you buy the idea that some wild plants are more valuable than others, the distinction quickly becomes uncertain. Are violets weeds? Jack in the pulpits? Asters? Buttercups? Columbines? Wintergreen? How about corn and apples which have weedy qualities? Harm to wildlife by removing sage in Wyoming.

  Weeds as soil indicators: Williams - Sides - Meleah - Oregon - Oregon - guru -

  The issue of invasive species of plants and insects is as complicated as with legislating human migration and immigration and over drugs. Change (and disruption) happens and has been speeded up by human travels yet this phenomena predates humans. Invasive ideology questioned by Chew & Carroll. Exotics can increase diversity and co-exist (Heard).

   I have learned much about wild plants along walks sponsored by native plant society. Some can be learned from invading birds too. When some people react by spraying out of desperation rather than finding the underlying disruption to the habitat that allowed invaders to dominate they end up polluting with poison and making things further out of balance. It is possible for invasive non-natives to fit right in without hurting natives link link. Remember that humans are not native to North America and have overwhelmed the environment, so should we spray ourselves? A recent study indicates that the two prime determinants of species invasion are population density and wealth - consider that when you drive your car and look at your house. It probably won't surprise you that birds are a factor in the natural distribution of plants. Who doesn't enjoy a garden of flowers, some of which came from somewhere else? Degree of invasiveness is probably important than national origin of a plant.

  Weeds give you only three options: 1) Ignore them, 2) Trim them, or 3) Eradicate the damn things. While I don’t condone ignoring most problems, I usually ignore purslane until it is a full-grown plant. Then I harvest and eat it. Yes, the low-growing red stems and waxy leaves do grow large quickly, but the plants don’t seem to disturb anything. What’s more, I learned a few years ago that those oily leaves are packed with Omega 3s. (Rhea Kennedy)

   Controlling movement of "invasive" species of plants is far more complicated than cutting and spraying them. Human-induced impacts, such as climate change, nitrogen eutrophication, urbanization and land use change are making the native-versus-alien species dichotomy in conservation increasingly meaningless. Simple criticism of invasives disregards basic ecological and evolutionary principles. Noxious weed proposa in Virginia. (gov)

   Huge sums of money are spent on weed killer herbicides, most of which harm the environment, and which ultimately result in herbicide resistant weeds (weedscience - NAS). Let's not forget the noisy weed whackers. Tax dollars are spent on introducing bugs for biological control of a few plants instead of devising new uses for those 'nuisances'. Bio-control success stories are touted, yet consider who they are for, who benefits? Imagine going with nature a little more and spending less energy fighting nature. Imagine people harvesting these as 'medicinal herbs' instead of spraying those 'noxious weeds' with herbicides.  A good case in point is the St. John's Wort story. It was introduced to Australia and California from Europe in the 1800's as a medicinal plant. It grew well in overgrazed pastures leading to ranchers prevailing upon the federal government to pay for a control program. A mite was introduced and now limits the spread. And now this same plant is one of the top selling medicinal herbs of commerce. Plants that are considered as weeds deserve further scientific investigation before tax dollars are spent on control.

   There is a change in attitude underway. Along the highways of America mowed grass is being replaced by wild plants (NY Times story). The battle with weeds is one we will never win because they are strong and adaptable. Biodiversity can be aided by using the weeds rather than trying to kill them. Give away your week killer and the weed whacker and join the weeds for needs revolution! New research indicates invasives are not more likely to be weedy than natives.

   Weeds have many uses and may be harvested instead of sprayed by herbicides. Until I can get around to a more thorough compendium on this topic, here are preformatted links to Medline and web literature to help you find uses and to find the plants.

preformatted Medline search links:
common name
web
web
taxonomy
pictures
             
AGERATINA Mist flower, Croftonweed google yahoo   usda picsearch
AGROPYRON repens (Elymus repens) Quack Grass, Couch Grass google yahoo   usda picsearch
AGROSTEMMA githago Corn Cockle google yahoo   usda picsearch
AILANTHUS altissima Tree of Heaven google yahoo   usda picsearch
ALBIZIA julibrissin Silktree google yahoo map usda picsearch
ALLIARIA petiolata Garlic Mustard google yahoo   usda picsearch
ALTERNANTHERA Alligator weed google yahoo   usda picsearch
AMARANTHUS retroflexus Redroot Pigweed google yahoo   usda picsearch
AMBROSIA Ragweed google yahoo   usda picsearch
AMPELOPSIS Porcelain berry google yahoo   usda picsearch
ARCEUTHOBIUM Dwarf Mistletoe google yahoo   usda picsearch
ARUNDO Giant Reed google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
BAUHINIA variegata Kanchano google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
CARDUUS Thistle google yahoo   usda picsearch
CENCHRUS Sandbur google yahoo   usda picsearch
CENTAUREA Knapweed, Starthistle google yahoo   usda picsearch
CHENOPODIUM album Lambsquarters google yahoo   usda picsearch
CIRSIUM arvense Thistle google yahoo   usda picsearch
CONVOLVULUS arvensis Bindweed google yahoo   usda picsearch
CORTADERIA Pampas Grass google yahoo   usda picsearch
CUSCUTA Dodder google yahoo   usda picsearch
CYNODON dactylon Bermuda grass google yahoo   usda picsearch
CYPERUS Nutsedge google yahoo   usda picsearch
CYTISUS scoparius Scotch Broom google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
DIGITARIA Crab grass google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
ECHINOCHLOA Barnyard Grass, Water Grass, google yahoo   usda picsearch
EICHHORNIA crassipes Water Hyacinth google yahoo   usda picsearch
EUPHORBIA esula Leafy Spurge google yahoo   usda picsearch
ELAEAGNUS umbellata Autumn Olive google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
HEDERA helix English Ivy google yahoo   usda picsearch
HERACLEUM mantegazzianum Giant Hogweed google yahoo   usda picsearch
HYDRILLA verticillata Waterthyme google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
IMPERATA cylindrica Cogon grass google yahoo   usda picsearch
IPOMOEA Morningglory google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
LAMIUM amplexicaule Henbit Deadnettle google yahoo   usda picsearch
LAMIUM purpureum Purple Deadnettle google yahoo   usda picsearch
LIGUSTRUM Privet google yahoo   usda picsearch
LONICERA japonica Japanese Honeysuckle Bush google yahoo   usda picsearch
LYGODIUM microphyllum Climbing Fern google yahoo   usda picsearch
LYTHRUM Loostrife google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
MIKANIA Mile-a-Minute google yahoo   usda picsearch
MICROSTEGIUM vimineum Stilt grass google yahoo   usda picsearch
MYRIOPHYLLUM Eurasian Watermilfoil google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
OPUNTIA Prickly Pear Cactus google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
PAULOWNIA Princess tree google yahoo   usda picsearch
PHALARIS arundinacea Reed Canarygrass google yahoo   usda picsearch
PHRAGMITES australis Common Reed google yahoo   usda picsearch
POLYGONUM cuspidatum Japan Knotweed google yahoo   usda picsearch
PUERARIA lobata Kudzu google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
ROSA multiflora Multiflora Rose google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
SALSOLA Russian Thistle, Saltwort google yahoo   usda picsearch
SAPIUM sebiferum Chinese Tallow Tree google yahoo   usda picsearch
SENECIO Ragwort, Groundsel google yahoo   usda picsearch
SETARIA glauca Foxtail google yahoo   usda picsearch
SONCHUS Sow Thistle google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
TAMARIX Tamarisk, Salt Cedar google yahoo   usda picsearch
TRIBULUS terrestris Puncturevine google yahoo   usda picsearch
TRIADICA Tallowtree, Popcorntree google yahoo map usda picsearch
             
ULEX Gorse google yahoo   usda picsearch
VISCUM Mistletoe google yahoo   usda picsearch
             
WISTERIA   google yahoo   usda picsearch
XANTHIUM (strumarium & spinosum) Cocklebur google yahoo   usda picsearch

Some 'weed' oriented sites to inspire more research into their uses:   
USDAaphis - USDAnoxious - USDAinvasive - WeedIDLucid(bear1j) - NPSalien - NPSalien - NPSupdates - BLM - plantright -  CalDFA - Calweed - CalInvasivePlants - noxioustimes - NatureConservancy/ UCDavis - NatureConserv - NYBGweeds - British Columbia - BritCol - Sasketchuan  - Arizona - Colorado - Colo Weed Mgt Assn - Connecticut - Hawaii - IdahoMontana  - Illinois - Indiana  - IowaIowa - NJRutgers  - NYOhio - Oregon - Utah - WSU - King County, Wa Wyoming - World - World - Weed o' Week - Cropnet - merriweb - weedsmart - garden invaders - globalWeeds - Coomb - forestryimages - Fletcher - Australia - googleweedID - invasiveguide - invasiveatlas - Finneyfrock - Francis - InvasiveOrg - ChicagoBan - plantwise - replacements - MexicoInvasives - SoUSInvasives - SoUSInvasives - SoUSInvasives - MapsInvasive - RussiaWeeds - BugwoodInvasipedia - Australia -

ask for more: SoaringBear at yahoo.com

2004-2008 Soaring Bear; your comments & corrections are welcome

To those whose voices have not yet been heard.