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the difference between a flower and a weed

What’s the actual difference between a weed and a flower?

Is there a difference between a weed and a flower, other than what an individual gardener thinks is a good or bad plant? My neighbor and I were debating this the other day.

—Dena Jefferson, Highland Park

My definition of a weed is a plant that is growing where it is not wanted in the garden. That said, there are plants like creeping Charlie that would be considered weeds, pretty much no matter where they are growing. Different gardeners will have alternate ideas as to what constitutes a “weed” in their gardens. For example, are violets in the lawn weeds or interesting spring color accents? Or is white clover in the lawn a weed or a great plant for attracting pollinators like bees?

There is a biological difference between a weedy plant and an invasive plant. Weedy plants readily spread (some ornamental plants can be weedy/aggressive in the garden too), especially in disturbed areas, but generally do not pose a threat to the integrity of native plant communities. Invasive plants are usually non-native and are able to establish themselves within existing native plant communities; they threaten the integrity of the plant community by taking over and pushing out native plants. When plants are introduced to a new location, either intentionally or accidentally, they can spread prolifically, outcompete native species for resources and eventually even dominate the landscape. Buckthorn is an example of an invasive plant in the Chicago area that creates a dense thicket and shades other plants out.

Different gardeners will have alternate ideas as to what constitutes a “weed” in their gardens. However, there is a biological difference between a weedy plant and an invasive plant. ]]>