Weeds: The Best Kind!
Beneficial types of weeds can merit such a classification based on various criteria, including the following:
Ability to attract wildlife
The fact that they are edible
Use in low-maintenance landscaping
Of course, as with anything else where there are "good guys" and "bad guys," there will not be universal agreement on these nominations for beneficial weeds. For instance, there are folks who see no redeeming value whatsoever in creeping charlie.
Sumac shrubs: Because they are native to North America, sumac shrubs are often taken for granted here. Worse yet, they are often disparaged for being aggressive spreaders. Consequently, they are sometimes labeled as weeds (even though we more commonly think of only smaller plants as being "weeds"). But sumac shrubs' vibrant fall foliage is truly one of the joys of autumn, and their seeds are an emergency food source for wild birds in winter.
Creeping Charlie: Massed together, creeping charlie's blossoms are more attractive than those of some ground covers sold commercially. The plant also has medicinal uses and, when crushed, is quite fragrant.6
Moss: The next two beneficial weeds can be considered low-maintenance ground covers. If you're currently trying to eradicate these "weeds," you may wish to ask yourself why. The very presence of moss in your lawn sends a clear signal as to what your lawn is lacking. In some cases, it is simply sunshine that is lacking--a problem you may not be able to correct very easily. In other cases, you can easily enough supply the missing ingredient (e.g., fertilizer). But before you go through a lot of trouble, consider the possibility that moss may simply be the preferred ground cover for your "problem area." Should you rethink moss as a low-maintenance landscaping alternative to grass?
Dandelion weeds: The final two beneficial weeds that make the list offer the benefit of edibility. Like crabgrass, the dandelion is so common a lawn weed that most people need little weed-ID help to recognize it.7 Also like crabgrass, homeowners spend millions of dollars and countless hours every year trying to eradicate it from lawns. But that's where the similarities end. Dandelions are rather easy on the eye for the most part, and they are edible weeds: the nutritious greens can be harvested, cooked, and served at mealtime.
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