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I just read your blog about plants. I cherish plants especially for their flowers, amazing colors and scents. I am currently volunteering in Greece and France and some farm posts want me to "garden" but they mean usually tearing out the “weeds." I don't believe in “weeds.” Every plant has total value in my eyes. I don't want to rip anything out. Robert Shapiro's magnificent book, Plant Souls Speak, is the most loving and aware book on plants I've ever seen. But what would you say to people who believe in weeds and the desire to be rid of them? Kay Lindstrom

Plants that Spread Like Wildfire
My experience with plants that we call weeds and how I manage them depends on the weed. There are some like dandelions that are excellent for salads for me and the animals. I pull or cut them like vegetables. There are others that overcome and choke out other plants (in the vegetable or perennial garden), so the garden plants do not get the sun, shade, and soil nutrients they need. I love the weeds as I pull or cut them and use them as compost or mulch for the soil.

In our area north of Phoenix, Arizona, a plant from South Africa, Oncosiphon piluliferum, commonly called Globe Chamomile or Stinknet (because of its strong smell) has spread its range vastly over a few decades since its introduction by humans. It takes over the land for miles all around in late winter and spring if we have plentiful rain. It crowds and chokes native wildflowers and other plants, affecting the food supply of wild animals, and becomes a severe fire hazard when it dries. Its tiny seeds blow everywhere like dust in the wind. Many people have severe allergic reactions to it.

Field of green Globe Chamomile with yellow flowersGlobe Chamomile takeover

Like the introduced European grasses, Glove Chamomile changes the ecosystem, so that fire starts and burns hot and destroys desert trees and large cacti like Saguaros that take a long time to grow and belong here as desert natives. Before these weeds spread as they have now, there was little or no hazard caused by blazing uncontrolled fires to plants, animals, or human inhabitants of the desert.

Since we had above average rain this winter, the Globe Chamomile was abundant and up to 2 feet tall. If not pulled or cut down, I would see little of my garden and the plants would not thrive. After hand pulling it for months around my garden plants in late winter and spring, I am still spending time each day cutting the dried swaths of it over a good part of my 5 acres with an electric trimmer so if a fire starts in this dry, hot season, it will not rapidly spread over my land and destroy everything, including my home.

The desert plants are also very happy to be freed up to breathe and live in contact with the sun, air, and soil as they are meant

I have not seen any native pollinators on the Globe Chamomile flowers. Not even the rabbits, who delight in many native plants and those in my garden, eat this weed. It doesn’t have the checks and balances inherent in the native ecosystem where the plants have a more balanced relationship to the animals and environment around them.

Cherishing Weeds
If you don't pull weeds in a vegetable garden, you may not have many healthy vegetables. All of us who are sustained by eating vegetables would not live if food plants were not cared for properly. While some weeds are edible, they generally would not replace the nutritional value of the vegetables they smother.

You can cherish the weeds just as you cherish all life and still remove them when they threaten food or other garden plants. All life recycles. Plants understand this and don't mind being lovingly eaten or mulched by humans or other animals, especially when your intention is to be a caretaker of the land.

Caring for plants means creating a balance. There are no absolute rules on removing some and leaving others. I appreciate weeds' life force, hardiness and ways many are helpful to the ecosystem. I am also sensible about and listen to what works on the land to create harmony for all creatures in each situation.

No Weeds
Kay: What you wrote made me think that it is because humans interfered with Nature in Her original and perfect state by introducing foreign plants to new places where they did not belong. Because of that interference, we now have problems like the South African Chamomile and the European grasses which, as you say, change the ecology (the original balanced template). As a result, situations like weeds spreading and killing native vegetables and the fires that you mentioned, are now our lot.

Further, this makes me think that if that human interference had not occurred, and we were still living with nature in her original template, there would be no "bad" weeds, hence no need for "weeding" at all. All would grow as it should without harming others? 

I wonder if we communicated with the imported plants and asked them about this, what they would say?

I read in one of Robert Shapiro's books that the reason some weeds are so persistent and hard to eradicate is because they have a healing ability for us humans and they persist in hopes we will recognize this and use it! Of course this is true for some, but not all, as in the case of the ones you mentioned.

Communicating with Globe Chamomile
I connected with Globe Chamomile and mentioned our concerns about its effects on the ecosystem. I asked what it can tell me about the ecological balance the native plants and animals create and that it appears to disrupt.

We plants are not harmful in ourselves, nor do we have any intentions to destroy harmony where we take root. We were transported here from our original habitat and found the climate and soil welcoming to our survival needs. We do what comes naturally, which is to grow where we can. We don’t have ideas about crowding out other plants or being a fire hazard that you mentioned. We simply take hold and grow where we are welcomed by conditions. In our original habitat, some people use us for medicine. Perhaps you will see our value as good medicine, too.

I checked in with the even more widespread non-native grasses that have similar hazardous effects on the environment here and found a similar attitude about taking hold where conditions are right.

Other non-native plants that have established themselves for a long time in areas around the world do not cause such great harm to the ecology of native plants and animals and have many beneficial properties. Some have integrated themselves deeply into the landscape and serve as food and shelter for many animals and do not wreak havoc such as inviting explosive fires when they dry. They have inherent elements that prevent them from becoming invasive.

Globe Chamomile is a relative newcomer in the United States, only seen spreading in southern California and Arizona in the last 20-30 years. Perhaps in years to come, like other plants, it will be harvested for its medicinal qualities.

A 2006
University of Pretoria report on Globe Chamomile states: The Europeans administered an infusion of the plant for convulsions and the Hottentots used an infusion of the flower and leaf for typhoid and other fevers. A decoction of the plant is an old fashioned “Dutch” remedy to bring out the rash in measles and both the Xhosa and Mfengu use it as an antifebrile. Extracts of the plant are reported to have given “negative results in experimental malaria.”

Life on Earth
Plants, like animals, including humans, travel the globe beyond their place of origin.We can gaze upon the good, the bad, and the ugly about it all, fighting it and/or enjoying it. On this Earth, and in this physical reality, all forms move, change and exchange energy as they interrelate. We adapt together and evolve on our journey through time and space in this earthly cornucopia.

To communicate telepathically with plants, animals, and get the inside story of all life on Earth,
check out this study program.

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