Gateway to the Classics: Wild-Flower Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
Wild-Flower Study by  Anna Botsford Comstock

Lesson CXLIX

Outline for the Study of a Weed

1. Why do we call a plant a weed? Is a weed a weed wherever it grows? How about "butter and eggs" when it grew in Grandmother's garden? Why do we call that a weed now? What did Grandmother call it?

2. In how many ways may a weed injure our cultivated crops?

3. Why must we study the habits of a weed before we know how to fight it?

We should ask of every weed in our garden or on our land the following questions, and let it answer them through our observations in order to know why the weed grows where it chooses, despite our efforts.

4. How did this weed plant itself where I find it growing? By what agency was its seed brought and dropped?

5. What kind of root has it? If it has a tap-root like the mullein, what advantage does it derive from it? If it has a spreading shallow-growing root like the purslane what advantage does it gain? If it has a creeping rootstock with underground buds like the Canada thistle, how is it thereby helped?

6. Is the stem woody or fleshy? Is it erect or reclining or climbing? Does it gain any advantage through the character of its stem?

7. Note carefully the leaves. Are they eaten by grazing animals? If not, why? Are they covered with prickles like the teasel or fuzz like the mullein, or are they bitter and acrid like the wild carrot?

8. Study the blossoms. How early does the weed bloom? How long does it remain in bloom? Do insects carry pollen for the flowers? If so, what insects? What do the insects get in return? How are the flower buds and the ripening seeds protected?

9. Does it ripen many seeds? Are these ripened at the same time or are they ripened during a long period? Of what advantage is this? How are the seeds scattered, carried and planted? Compute how many seeds one plant of this weed matures in one year.

"That which ye sow ye reap. See yonder fields!

The sesamum was sesamum, the corn

Was corn. The Silence and the Darkness know!"

—Edwin Arnold.

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