Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge fan of ethical foraging during our short but sweet growing season in Alberta. Our ditches and crown lands are filled with beautiful prairie flowers like clover, chamomile, mustard, and tansy. They grow in abundance and with vigour, and to their detriment, are then commonly mislabeled as weeds by the public.
Cue my eye twitch and me reaching for a soapbox to spread the good word.
Because here's the thing - the term 'weed' was created with the intention of identifying any unwanted plant. So, if you purchase a home and the previous owner had decided to line your property with peonies, roses, and dahlias, and you happened to be one of the rare few who hated all three (wut wrong wit you?) - they'd all be considered weeds!
In fact, the original definition of the word was written as "A plant not valued for its use or beauty."
Red Clover can be used to treat inflammation, skin disorders, and respiratory issues.
White Clover can be used as an antiseptic and analgesic (to clean wounds and numb pain and shit).
Sweet Clover is a natural air freshener and can be used to combat fluid retention as well as relieve symptoms stemming from poor blood circulation.
Chamomile, one of the most common and oldest tea ingredients, has been used to treat everything from anxiety, insomnia, and menstruation symptoms to hay fever.
Wild Mustard greens can be used for salads while the seeds can be harvested and used as a spice or to grow sprouts from.
And Tansies not only kill lice and bacteria, but are packed with antioxidants and can be useful in treating colds, fevers, kidney problems, and even gout.
So while we may have our disagreements about each one's beauty, there is no doubt that these plants all carry valuable properties and are intentionally grown by some for those properties. Why, then, the label? There is no one source I've been able to track down, but many believe the term was coined for farmers and gardeners to have a common language to discuss their problems through. Used in this context, it absolutely is correct to refer to anything that unexpectedly pops up and uses nutrients in your farm, garden, or landscaping as a weed.
However, in botanic studies and sciences, the term has literally zero taxonomic significance. AKA it is not used in the classification of plants.
And to that I say, FUCK YES GOOD SIR! Hear me out, I am all for labelling for the purposes of making communication easier, but labelling can rear its ugly head when offshoot assumptions begin to accompany those labels.
For example, we came up with the word 'black' to reference a colour. But somewhere along the way we also attributed a whole bunch of negative characteristics to it, one of which was that black is the colour that is symbolic of all things evil.
This assumption lent itself to the old superstition of black cats being bad luck. Fast forward years later and animal rescues & shelters continue to find that black animals have a lower percentage of being adopted out and at a slower rate (I'm not kidding, they've done research on this, google it up).
Now, is that because those furry ones have any less value or are any more unlucky than their counterparts? No. It's because we humans can be very, very dumb. We come up with language, that language evolves (or devolves), but then we become rigidly stubborn in reassessing it 'cause change is just way too scary.
If you're still not quite grasping it, let's test out this more personalized scenario. Say you're enjoying your morning coffee and you decide you want to treat yourself to a BUD + BLOOM bouquet because, dammit, you deserve it boo! So, you hop on to this here site and look at the bouquet specials. You find one labelled as a Foraged Weeds Bouquet and one labelled as a Wildflower Bouquet. Which are you most likely to choose after you've confirmed that neither have cannabis in them? (The term 'weed' being used in that context is a whole other post for another day.)
They're both the exact same bouquets, with the exact same flowers, toting the exact same value, only using different words. And that, my friends, is the art of marketing. Make no mistake, language is incredibly complex and powerful which is why one of the world's leading industries is dedicated to mastering how to use it for profit.
So don't you think it should be commonplace that we discuss and adapt it as we make these realizations, too?
The short of this post is that the assumptions that go along with the word 'weed', a word created with the best intentions, are all negative. As a result, the value of certain plants and flowers that are both beautiful and useful is lessened as if there is something inherently wrong with them, when in reality, their actual value is immense for those who choose to see them as they are.
There are plants and flowers. There are unwanted plants and flowers. And there are toxic plants and flowers.
But there is no such thing as a weed.