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EDITORIAL: Nature sends us a memo


The definition of a weed is any plant you don’t want in a specific area.

In other words, it’s all relative. A growing movement is urging people to take the dandelion off their personal hate list.

The pitch from beekeepers in the Maritimes has a very practical purpose: those yellow harbingers of spring are among the earliest of blossoms and a vital food source for bees.

As reported this week by the CBC, Dave MacNearney, the president of the P.E.I. Beekeepers Association, is encouraging homeowners not to kill the dandelions on their lawns, even to hold off on mowing the flowers the moment they appear. Perhaps they could dedicate a portion of their property to a more natural habitat, allowing dandelions and other wildflowers to flourish.

It’s a message that’s been scattered like seed to a soft breeze many times before, by beekeepers and organizations dedicated to the wonders of nature: there’s much good about this herb and nothing bad except a manufactured bad reputation.

That natural world with dandelions and other wildflowers is vital as part of the habitat for bees and other pollinators. To extend that thought, we’re also hearing more lately about how crucial bees are in helping propagate all sorts of vegetable and fruit crops – without them a lot of produce humans depend on just wouldn’t happen.

The industrial chemical industry played a hand in this, telling people that the lawn they want is that uniform, monoculture, green carpet of grass blades, and that they have just the solution to kill anything else.

Fortunately many provinces have recognized the health risks of widespread use of these herbicides and put restrictions on their sales.

Like many other aspects of landscaping, acceptance or rejection of certain features is one of those ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ kind of things. Some people will not be persuaded to leave behind their dandelion-hating perception. But some have listened to champions of this herb and questioned its longtime vilification.

Some have gone so far as celebrating its arrival, such as the Nova Scotia community of Wallace, which started holding a dandelion festival some years ago. Other places in the country have similar events.

We also hear some of the many uses of the plant, dating back centuries. The young leaves used as a salad green are a great spring tonic and early vegetable. The flowers are edible too and have a folksy reputation as an ingredient in homemade wine. The roots are another part full of nutrients – some people roast them and use them as a coffee substitute. And these are just a few of many uses. The City of Summerside recently posted on its Facebook site some of the plant’s “miraculous benefits.”

Not everyone will heed the call. But some will be persuaded that letting nature do her job is wise.

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