The conventional definition of a weed is a plant s growing where it’s not wanted. By that subjective measure, any of the twenty-six wildflowers featured on this blog over the past few weeks might qualify as a weed if it’s in the “wrong” spot.
More often, I suspect, we think of weeds as non-native or invasive plants, as those that misbehave by arming themselves with stickers and spines, as disruptive to orderly plantings or crops, or as toxic hazards to children, pets, or livestock.
Let’s face it, though, there are some plants we’re inclined to dismiss as weeds because they’re simply gangly or odd-looking. They’re weeds because they look…well, weedy.
Scorpionweed isn’t a pretty plant, and it’s also burdened with a common name with distinctly unpleasant associations. Its flowers, while obviously floral on close inspection, are small, of insipid color, and arranged peculiarly (the Latin name for the genus is Phacelia, which translates as “bundle”). After getting over my initial “What the heck is THAT?!” response and checking its native bona fides in my field guides, I’ve become rather fond of scorpionweed, but perhaps that’s because I can reliably remember its name.
These other two native plants look weedy, but when they’re in bloom, as they are now…the flowers. Oh, those flowers.
Eveningstars (Mentzelia spp), as the name hints, open at night. I have not pinned down the species present here, but I’m pretty crazy about the flowers and have been actively collecting seeds to try to get more of them blooming near the house where I’m likely to encounter them on an evening walk.
Prickly poppy is a fierce plant, unless you are diving straight into the heart of those frilly extravagant flowers.