Weeds can seem nothing more than intruders in a well-manicured garden. They spring up unwanted and are hastily removed without a second thought. Superweeds are characterized as malevolent trespassers, intent on destroying humanity's carefully cultivated allotments and trails. But the idea of a weed is constantly changing. In a field of corn the scarlet poppy may be unwelcome, but in other contexts it may be prized.
What we now consider as weeds may once have had practical uses, as food, for example. Some weeds can be helpful to our ecology, yet the presence of weeds is often considered to be a sign of neglect. They are blitzed from farmland, wayside verges, gardens and even pavements. The concept of what is and is not considered naturally occurring even in our remaining wilderness involves a sense of what is native or alien.
Weeds discusses the history of weeds, looking at the ways literature has interrogated this slippery concept. Weeds is an informative resource for understanding exactly what turns a plant into a weed in varying contexts and reveals just how interesting and useful these seemingly pointless plants can be. Weeds is the perfect companion for gardeners or readers with an interest in botany, as well anyone seeking knowledge about what is, and what is not, a weed.
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Nina Edwards is a freelance writer and the author of Offal: A Global History (Reaktion, 2013). She lives in London.