Backyard Biology

Nature stories from my backyard and beyond

Nature Stories

 

Choosing Your Definition

Friday, May 6, 2011

Definition one
Weed: A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a lawn.

According to this definition of a weed found on the Internet, my yard is a mess. It is a haven for weeds. I looked up lawn weeds on the net and almost every one listed for the northeast grows in my lawn.
Here is a partial list of my weeds: plantain, clover, crab grass, dandelion, lambsquarters, violets, asters, queen Anne’s lace, sheep sorrel and vetch. Pretty unattractive and certainly troublesome. How did the lawn get in this shape, you might ask. The answer is pretty dandilionsimple.
A year ago, we had some work done in the back yard that involved heavy equipment. The heavy equipment dug up everything in the back yard including the gardens and the lawn, leaving hardpacked dirt that the weeds seemed to really like. After the work was done, it was time to put the yard back together. The question was – what to tackle first with our limited time. The answer was the garden, in particular a garden that would attract butterflies. So looking up butterfly gardens, we chose some plants that produce a lot of nectar and would attract butterflies.
This year, the gardens looked pretty good, unlike the lawn, which was still a wasteland. The flowers were in bloom all summer and some of my favorite butterflies were in attendance: fritillaries, pearl crescents, checkerspots, skippers, satyrs, blues, sulphers, monarchs, and the list goes on.

Something, however, just didn’t seem right to me. Knowing a little about insects, I realized that the flowers that butterflies are attracted to are usually not the same plants that the caterpillars feed on. For a successful crop of butterflies, you need to feed both the adults and the caterpillars. If the caterpillars starve for lack of the correct plants to feed on, they will never grow to be butterflies. Our gardens had been planted with flowers to feed the adults, but not the caterpillars. So what were the caterpillars feeding on?
Imagine my surprise (and delight) when a search of the literature told me that, as caterpillars, my favorite butterflies fed on: plantain, clover, crab grass, dandelion, lambsquarters, violets, asters, queen Anne’s lace, sheep sorrel and vetch. violets

Definition two
Weed: Just a regular plant that is out of place. What is a weed to one person is considered a valuable plant to another person.

 

 

According to this definition of a weed found on the Internet, my back yard is perfect! Time to just sit back and enjoy the butterflies. And caterpillars.