Thistle Do

By Bonnie Grant | September 7, 2022
Image by Vitalii Makarov
by Bonnie Grant
September 7, 2022

I think it is well documented that I hate weeds. I know hate is a strong word, but I will not apologize for it. Considering the good in weeds means that I would be taking a long, soul searching look at myself and equating weed traits with some of the things about myself which I love and despise. Finding the beauty in otherwise unloved and unsung things like weeds takes maturity, a characteristic which I may lack in this respect. 

A Battle with Weeds

I have loathed weeds ever since I first gardened. One of my first memories is gathering the heads off of dandelions in the turf. We got a penny per head. Supposedly this would keep the plants from spreading, although I am not sure the goal was assured. Flash forward to today. I live in the wheat fields of Washington and next to an abandoned house. Tumble weeds often clog my landscape, as well as other destitute plants carried by our high, unbroken winds. The neighboring house produces prolific weeds which are blown into my garden due to our wind patterns. The whole situation is exhausting and overwhelming.

So, considering myself a weed is a tough call. While I have some foraging books that tout the good weed benefits, I am still in a battle with my nemeses. I look at the noxious skeleton weed, and the only nice thing I can say about it is that it fosters a desire to lose some extra pounds. Purslane, while supposedly delicious, is not, and engenders an urge to napalm my property. 

Thistle Weeds

If you believe in the Wheel of Life, we will come back as another organism. Ok, I will be a weed. I’m going for thistle. We have a wide variety of species of this prickly plant here. They are tenacious, viral, ferocious, and yet produce deep, almost electric purple flowers. The human characteristics inherent in this plant speak to me about endurance, and a “who cares” nature. As an added bonus, I could be eaten, as both the roots and young stems are edible. There are more weed benefits contained in these edible plants. The good in weeds is often in their medicinal value, traced back to early human interaction with wild plants. Thistle seems to help with liver problems, boost the immune system, improve skin, and much more. If I have to be a weed I want to be a multi-purpose weed that is one of the edible plants while also carrying other beneficial properties. 

While I tout this weed’s attributes, we should not forget its ability to foster bio-diversity in the wild. Many butterflies and other beneficial insects rely upon the plant as a host. Hummingbirds, bees, and birds also partake of the weed. So, if I have to be a weed, I want to be one as multi-dimensional as thistle. I don’t want to simply be an annoyance, something to be pulled or sprayed. I want to do my part to enhance wild life and perhaps contribute something to science.

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