By Judy Bluhm, Foothills Focus Guest Columnist
Weeds. Everywhere. Gazing out my windows, all I see is a thick carpet of green grasses, dandelions and other pesky, growing-at-the-speed-of-light, invasive species. Around trees, spilling out from under rocks, sprouting up against fences and taking over flower beds. We might be annoyed by weeds but respect their tenacity. They seem to spring out of obscure places, even punching their way through cracks in cement sidewalks with alarming strength and determination.
I have a “volunteer” tree growing in my yard that has risen to become a 30-foot beauty. For all the effort and money spent on planting trees, this big, healthy giant just showed up one spring and never stopped growing.
Did you know that the most famous weed of all, the dandelion, is the only “flower” that represents the sun, moon and stars? The yellow flower resembles the sun, the puff ball resembles the moon and the dispersing seeds replicate the stars. One hundred years ago, people would pull grass out of their lawns to make room for dandelions! Oh, how times have changed.
Every year, Americans spend millions on pesticides to kill dandelions and other weeds to have uniform lawns of non-native grasses. In doing so, we use about 30% of the country’s water supply to keep the grass green! OK, so the dandelions “grow like weeds,” and their seeds can be carried as far as 5 miles from their place of origin. Yes, the complaint that the neighbor’s weeds are causing your yard to be filled with them is actually true.
Nothing grows as fast as a weed. I had one in the backyard that looked like something out of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Is it a bush, a tree, a vine? No, my gardener took a photo of it and said it is simply a “monster weed.” Oh yeah, ’tis the season of the weedwacker. Or goats. My neighbor has a small herd of goats for hire. They love to eat weeds and grasses (flowers, bushes and any living plant). I tried the goats, but they seemed to spook the horses. It’s pretty funny to watch my ponies running for the barn to hide when a little posse of goats comes through the gate.
In the beautiful Sonoran Desert, the globe chamomile is becoming a huge problem. You will see these yellow “flowers,” often called “stinknet,” taking over parks, recreational areas and the sides of the freeways. They crowd out native plants and are a pungent, smelly weed that is highly allergenic to many people. The invasive species is from South Africa. It is an invader that fills in empty lots and open desert spaces. The yellow plants dry out by mid-summer and enhance the spread of wildfire by creating fuel. Sometimes “pretty” can be dangerous.
I was planting some petunias when I noticed a thick, green stalk of a dandelion sticking up out of two bricks around my flower bed. The beautiful yellow “flower” was all alone, just sprouting up about 2 inches. One tough little weed that never gets water yet proudly stands tall. Beautiful. It made me ponder that life finds a way.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.