Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Rose by Any Other Name . Could Be a Weed

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Rose by Any Other Name . Could Be a Weed

Article excerpt

Now that fall has arrived, I'm hoping I no longer need to fear what may await in my email box.

I've been a bit apprehensive each time I open my email ever since I received a missive this summer that left me a little more than mortified.

The tone of the email was polite, even empathetic, but its message was clear: My neighbors had grown tired of looking at my overgrown flower bed.

"A couple of your neighbors have commented on the overgrown trees, shrubs and weeds that surround your property," began the email from the "environmental officer" for the townhouse neighborhood I moved into in January.

"In this kind of weather, it doesn't take long for nature to do what nature does best. . We would really appreciate your attention to this."

OK, so I had let Mother Nature have her way with my flower bed until it resembled a jungle. I realize allowing vegetation to grow unchecked can create a haven for all kinds of unwelcome vermin - from ticks to rats. But each time I had ventured out to tame the overgrowth, I was stopped short by one problem:

I couldn't tell what was a weed and what wasn't.

And the more I wrestled with this question, the more frustrated I became.

How could something that was green and growing be declared unworthy of living on our fair planet?

And, who gets to decide what is a weed and what isn't, anyway?

*

From what I understand, a weed is pretty much any plant that is hale and hearty, requiring no special pampering or pruning to thrive. (Yes, I've heard the term "invasive species," but, come on, if humans aren't an invasive species, I don't know what is. Zucchini?)

I can't say it better than the late poet Anita Gevaudan Byerly did in her ode to the dandelion:

* Poor maligned flower,

cursed for your fecundity,

if you would bloom but once each year

at midnight on the first of August,

crowds would wait for your appearance;

the press would send photographers .

*

Before you get the wrong idea about my neighborhood, let me tell you that it's a gem of a place - a collection of older, charming townhouses set in a valley, surrounded by trees and populated by people who are down-to-earth and friendly. …

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