I Wonder the Weed – Who Decides What Is A Weed and What Is A Flower?


A Weed Is but an Unloved Flower –
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

When appraising nature, I am perplexed by the question, “Who decided that some plants were weeds that looked like flowers and who decided which were flowers?”

Image result for common violet flower

Take for instance the common sweet violet that weaves a purple and green carpet across my lawn in spring. During the 19th century, poets sang about violets and drawings of common dog violets or sweet violets were sprawled across old diaries.



From Edith Holden’s Diary of An Edwardian Lady Here

“And wind-flowers and violets
Which yet join not scent to hue
Crown the pale year weak and new.” – Shelley

“Long as there’s a sun that sets Primroses will have their glory
Long as there are violets, They will have a place in story.” – Wordsworth

Once a staple of the cottage garden and something considered to be beautiful, the violet has more recently fallen from grace. In many states, the violet is considered to be a weed. That seems odd to me. The flushing of common violets in springtime exhilarates me. Again, I wonder who gets to decide what is a weed and what is a flower.


I don’t know whether dandelions were ever romanticized, but I have seen some beautiful drawings and paintings of them. And when I simply look closely at a dandelion, I don’t see anything in its form that is less beautiful than the chrysanthemum.

He saw the kind of beauty yellow flowers have growing over a carpet of dead leaves. The beauty of cracks forming a mosaic in a dry riverbed, of emerald-green algae at the base of a seawall, of a broken shard from a blue bottle. The beauty of a window smudged with tiny prints. The beauty of wild weeds. – Michelle Cuevas

Generally speaking, garden clubs are a bit too structured for me, but for a short while, I was in a garden club, and as garden clubs often do, my club sponsored a flower arranging exhibition. Every member was asked to choose a piece of art and to interpret it with flowers. I chose a painting of an old barn and I arranged Johnson Grass with a mass of Black-eyed Susans–the ones that grow in the forests and alongside roads. I would imagine that everyone would call Johnson Grass a weed, but in my arrangement that day, it became a 2nd place winner.

With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many men resemble the nettle!” He added with a pause:

“Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Again, what is a weed?