sAs I pull in to the local produce stand in Belpre, Ohio, I can’t help but notice the orange traffic cones guarding the entrance. Springing majestically out the top of the two stalwart structures are two plants, by anyone’s measure: weeds. Vetch, I’m thinking, the sort that crops up in poor soil. Hairy Vetch, if it’s the same as what’s growing on my hillside.
Ah, but these plants, the ones who thrive where verdant grasses cannot, have a purpose. They infuse the poor soil with nitrogen. They stabilize hillsides. They prevent erosion. At least the vetch does, along with lovely red clover, a favorite of bunnies, and the plain white clover that peppers a yard to the angst of perfect yard-o-philes.
Me, I like a good weed. I say let the vetch and the clover and who knows what else thrive on our hillside — a hillside of hard red clay. The same hillside that, year after year, is being softened up and readied for pickier plants. Though I may just let the vetch and the clover claim it as their home.
My weeds feed the bunnies; they help honeybees hold their own in a world where they’re finding it increasingly difficult to thrive; they bring color to a red soil landscape — a bit like taking flowers to Mars. They’re useful to me as well as to the wildlife with whom I share a bit of earth.
So today, I am grateful for the orange cone habitats along the main road that provide a safe haven for these resourceful plants. Stand tall and proud. After all, a flower is nothing more than a weed we happen to like. A weed is nothing more than a flower we don’t like.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet,
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.
Gerard Manley Hopkins