the vigor of weeds: got to admire them!

Annual bluegrass/ Poa annua

Working at the San Francisco Botanical Garden nursery, repotting native plants for the past few weeks in preparation for the annual plant sale, I’ve noticed a miniature battle going on in the pots.  It’s actually the same battle that goes on in my garden and in the lawns of the park.  It’s all about territory!  Which plants get to have the pot (or the wide open spaces of the park?)  .  .  .  the precious seedlings we plant and root for, or the hardy opportunists that leap into the voids around the edges and try to take over?

I think you have to admire the vigor of weeds!  The weed I seem to be pulling most often this month is a little annual bluegrass, Poa annua.  This is one of the most common weeds in California, happily takes over gardens and fields, golf courses and roadsides.  Although it originated in Europe, it has spread around the world.  It reproduces by seeds and thrives in disturbed areas;   treats any patch of bare earth, no matter how small, as an opportunity.   In fact, large areas of “green space” in our parks, when you look closely, consist mainly of this so-called weed.

Maybe we should learn to love it?

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About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in plants, san francisco botanical garden, urban ecology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to the vigor of weeds: got to admire them!

  1. milliontrees says:

    The last sentence reminds us of the research of Professor Mark Davis (Macalester). He recommends that unless a non-native plant causes significant economic harm or harm to human health, we adopt the “LTL Approach,” i.e., “Learn to love ‘em” or at least “Learn to live with them.”

    Here is a link to the most recent post on the Million Trees blog, suggesting the “LTL Approach” for one of our most visible non-native plants at this time of year, broom:
    https://milliontrees.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/broom-im-ba-ack/

    As a landscape architect, you are probably familiar with the work of Peter Del Tredici (Harvard). He suggests that the managers of public lands in urban environments abandon their fantasy of “restorations” of historical native landscapes. Because of higher temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide, non-native plants are better adapted to the urban setting. They can be sustained with fewer resources than the natives that occupied a different environment.

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