Nature on our doorsteps: Survival experts
Dandelion seeds are spread by parachute

Nature on our doorsteps: Survival experts

A ‘weed’ is simply a plant that grows where we do not want it to grow.  While many see a Dandelion in a lawn as a weed, a farmer is just as likely to consider a rose in a field of crops as also being a weed – it shouldn’t be there.

Weeds, or wild plants, use many strategies to survive and colonise new areas.

Most do not need special growing conditions.

Even a pinch of dusty soil in a crack in a pavement is enough for Shepard’s Purse to produce three or four generations in one season.

Dandelion’s deep roots store water and nutrients.

This helps the plant to rapidly sprout again if its green leafy tops are cut away.

: Plantain’s rosette of leaves competes by pushing neighbouring plants away

Weeds are great competitors. The leaves of Plantain grow in a flat rosette that spreads out over the soil.

This prevents neighbouring plants growing too close and taking its resources.

While many weeds attract pollinating insects, some wildflowers ensure seed production by also fertilising themselves.

Most weeds produce hundreds of seeds. Some float to new territories on parachutes, while others like Burdock seeds, hook onto the fur of passing animals.

Other seeds will simply lie dormant in the soil for many years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate.

In the plant world, weeds are indeed the ultimate survivors.

By Rosaleen Dwyer.

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