Wednesday, July 7, 2010


In spring, sections of the lawn were covered with purple, and I thought to myself how delightful it was. I read about these little violets and to my surprise found out that they are largely considered a weed. But what is a weed, I wondered.

There is no definitive list of which plants are weeds: weedness is in the eye of the beholder. We (in the U.S.) have been conditioned to think that lawns must be free of any plant that isn't the fine-blade grass we now worship. It hasn't always been like this, as Michael Weishan points out:

        The first lawns were just mown pasture; whatever flowers or
        “weeds” existed were let be. Later in the 1800s, nurseries
        began to sell specialized seed mixtures. The lovers of the
        monotone lawn that modern chemicals produce would no
        doubt wince at the mixture for a perfect lawn given by
        Frank Scott in 1876:

          12 quarts Rhode Island bent grass

          4 quarts creeping bent grass

          10 quarts red top

          3 quarts sweet vernal grass

          2 quarts Kentucky blue grass

          1 quart white clover

In Green-Wood, we tend to let these violets live.

And I saw these trumpet-shaped flowers the other day dotting the lawn near 9th Ave. I think it's field bindweed. I hope it's one of those that gets to survive as well.

I love these weeds.


  1. Green-Wood at least in the past has sprayed its grounds twice a year with herbicides--including pendimethalin and 2,4-D, which have been banned in NYC public parks because of health concerns. I, too, have noticed that the weeds seem to thrive anyway, including the pretty ones. I wonder if they are still continuing this practice?

  2. I think they stopped using those pesticides a while ago... Green-Wood is pretty green these days.

  3. Wow, that would be great to know if it were true. They sprayed those herbicides as recently as 2007.

  4. Herbicides, yes. I'll find out for sure and let you know.

  5. To follow up, Green-Wood has been organic for two years now. They no longer use general blanket applications of weed control and do not use pendimethalin or 2,4-D.

  6. wow, that is great news. it would be nice to trumpet this if it's true. it makes green-wood even more appealing! thanks for letting me know.

  7. fascinating to think about what makes a "weed." your post on the Norway Maple seems to suggest that it's a weed, yes?

  8. The pink flowers are indeed bindweed which strangles everything.

    "I love these weeds" are not weeds at all but wood violets.


  9. Hi, Rita. Thanks. I know these are violets, but some people consider them weeds, especially if they want a lawn with only grass and violets keep popping up.