Thursday, April 21, 2011


With yesterday being 4/20, it is appropriate to start a conversation about the social construction of weed. The weed I want to talk about, however, is the dandelion. Adults put it in the category "weed," where children put it under the heading "wildflower." Thus, we have the same drama unfolding repeatedly..."Thank you so much. Let me find a vase for this beautiful bouquet of flowers you've picked me," and under the breath "Shame you didn't get the roots."

The switch is no doubt connected to the social meaning of lawns. With the tide of suburbanization, the notion of a lawn became a matter of social status and having complete control over unruly nature so that your little patch of it looks like a thick green rug became an issue so central to establishing one's bona fides in the suburban mindset that anything that encroaches upon your wall-to-wall exterior carpeting should be seen as a personal character flaw. Even if it is pretty. We'll pay lots of money and spray chemicals on our lawns whose long-term safety we really are not sure of, just so our neighbors will not think us insufficiently suburban with the presence of dandelions.

But kids love them. I have to admit, I still do, too. A field of yellow and green under a blue sky with fluffy clouds, there's just something wonderful about it. Yes, they are a pain in the garden, but not insurmountable.

At what point do we make the switch? When does dandelion go from nature's gift that we want to give to our most precious loved ones to curse? Is it a matter of being adult? Does it happen before we get a house and lawn? If they we the shape of buttercups with larger petals, would we even think them weeds at all? They are edible, what if they became more popular, say, in salads, would that utility take them from the list of weeds?