Who decides what is a weed and what is a flower? People have always had opinions about their favorites, or their favorite plants to hate. Dandelions are a good example. They are not native. People spray them, pull them, mow them down. Other people blow the seed heads, eat the leaves, and make tea. If these people are neighbors it can be a problem! So how can you tell if you should just let them be or try to get rid of them? I wish there was a clear answer!
The Federal and the State Government has lists of noxious weeds. They would prefer that you got rid of them. Their lists include plants like Buckthorn, Field Bindweed, and Spotted Knapweed. The State also has a list of Prohibited or restricted plants which means that they are not supposed to to be sold as seeds or plants in Minnesota. Many of the plants on the first list are also on the second, because it makes sense that if they want to to get rid of any growing, they don't want you planting more! But some of these are really beautiful plants that people want for their gardens, like purple loosestrife and flowering rush. People say they just want it in their garden, it won't go anywhere else. If only that were true! Some of our worst invasives seemed like a good idea at the time.
Invasives are those plants that not only are not native and growing out of gardens, but are very aggressive and spread quickly.
Daylilies, Amur Maples, even Sweet White and Yellow Clover all are classified as invasives.
The last category is weedy pests. These are plants that spread out and take over places that should be filled with native species. This means that the fauna that depend on them exclusively for food and shelter have no way to survive. Fortunately a lot of species can feed or live on more than one type of plant, but we are still loosing species at an alarming rate.
Weedy pests include species like dandelions, alsike clover, and alfalfa.
So what do we do? I favor each landowner/caretaker do what they can to prevent the spread of invasives. Buckthorn should be cut down when it is found, before it becomes a big problem. Field Bindweed, while annoying to walkers, is harder to find and cut off. I think dandelions are not really a large problem. We should think carefully before introducing non native species to our landscapes. We cannot go back and a change what was done. We can choose better for our future.
So go down by the river and enjoy the Flowering Rush while it blooms. Hopefully it will be controlled and eradicated before it forces out the native species along the river.