reading about weeds
Richard Mabey is my favourite kind of nature writer because he explores the interconnectedness between things.
His latest book - Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilization and Changed the Way We think About Nature looks at our relationship with weeds. Since weeds spring up in cleared disturbed soil it is us humans who have provided the perfect environment for them.
Weeds are at best a nuisance, at worst a terrible threat to our food and security. But the problem doesn't lie within the weeds themselves. It is the context that counts. Mabey defines a weed as simply 'a plant in the wrong place'. We gardeners decide what we want in our gardens, and sometimes plants that were docile and restrained in their original home go amok in their new one. Then they often escape the garden boundaries and become naturalized in the wider ecosystem.
Mabey doesn't idealize weeds but accepts that they will always be with us so we had better think of ways of living together. They have always had their uses as food or medicine. Now they may be helping us by re-greening soil that has been polluted and depleted.
Having read this book it is now incredible that I spent hours identifying and listing the plants in my garden, totally ignoring the weeds. As if they would go away if I ignored them! As if they weren't at least, if not more interesting than the Chosen Ones!