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Biology, Psychology, Sustainability, Uncategorized

To weed or not to weed


A few years ago I moved into a neighbourhood of lush lawns. My direct neighbour is a retiree and spends excessive time managing his many different flower beds and his lawn. It looks awesome, so long as you like the manicured look. As I walk down the street on my way to the bus each day I see all the lush lawns and I feel guilty.

The dandelions run rampant on my lawn and because the culture in Edmonton (and other places) has labelled them a weed (even though the City itself removed dandelions from their official weeds list a few years ago) I feel guilty every time I see those bright and cheery yellow flowers, or worse the white puffballs of seeds. I’ve tried to manage the weeds by hand pulling, but dandelions are resilient and it takes more time than I have to manage them this way.

But the reality is, I shouldn’t have to feel guilty. Many of the plants that have been labelled as weeds are only designated as such because humans have decided they don’t like them. A true weed is a plant that doesn’t belong in the area naturally, which I’m happy to say means that my neighbour’s beautifully maintained yard has many more weeds than I do.

So, here are the positives of a dandelion full yard:

  • More food for bees and other pollinators and wildlife
  • Lower water needs
  • Free salad ingredients (although I haven’t ever tried this)
  • A colourful yard at no extra cost
  • Is a source of naturally derived rubber (well one of the many varieties is)

Okay, so the last one probably isn’t going to help me with justifying the dandelions in my yard, but it is pretty cool.

Dandelions are one example of a plant that has a bad rap. There really isn’t a negative to them but society has ruled otherwise. Sadly, this is true for many natural things in our lives. As a consequence, we need to work on changing the reputation of the dandelion so that  I and many others can let the dandelions flourish without an overhanging cloud of guilt.

Select references (I also used a variety of standard field guides)

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. “Making rubber from dandelion juice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028114547.htm>

J. Doll & T. Trower. “Dandelion”. WeedScience. University of Wisconsin. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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