Have you ever known a boy jungle boys weed who always manages to be first in line? Instead of waiting his turn, he pushes ahead to grab the first hot dog at a picnic or the best seat in the auditorium. Instead of sharing with his neighbors, he takes the biggest helping of ice cream or the last cookie on the plate.
In the rough-and-tumble plant world, weeds are like this boy. If plowed land lies idle, weeds will take it over. Left to themselves, they will take over a garden. They grow vigorously, send strong root systems far into the ground, and reproduce at a rapid pace. They crowd out the cultivated plants by robbing them of minerals, water, sunshine, and growing space.
It is not easy to say what a weed is, for the name has nothing to do with plant classification. But weeds are usually defined as plants that grow where they are not wanted. A dandelion in the middle of a lawn is a weed; dandelions cultivated for fresh greens are not weeds.
Clover sown in a pasture is not a weed; clover in a flower bed is a weed. Sometimes one man’s weed is another man’s wild flower. City people gather daisies, buttercups, goldenrod, and black-eyed Susans. But the farmer who sees these flowers in his hayfield says, “Weeds!” and sets out to get rid of them.
Weeds, then, are plants that are out of place. And they are plants with a special ability for rapid and vigorous growth. In one way or another, weeds are better fitted to survive than most cultivated plants.