|A rose among the weeds - Mark Bower|
|Robert Videki CC|
First the fireweed name. This is a plant that loves fire and boy, did it find the right home. As Mark and Jan were building their new cabin, they had a new well drilled one day and the drilling rig was left on the site. That evening a neighbor saw flames and called the fire department. A short in the battery of the rig started a fire that burned up the rig while mercifully sparing the trees. You can see how hot the fire was from the melted tires. And that is where the weed is now growing.
|Tiny flower heads - Wikipedia|
|Pile on seed heads*|
|Tall plant with shallow roots|
|Short roots of a tall plant|
So what exactly is a "weed"? My simple answer is a plant growing in the wrong place in the judgement of a lately descended bipedal ape species that itself has been growing "like a weed." Illinoiswildflowers discusses weed criteria at length and makes an argument that sometimes we should embrace our weeds.
"...suburbia considers any plant a weed that is well-adapted to its environment, prone to reproduce itself and spread, requires little or no effort to maintain, has no obvious aesthetic or culinary properties, and doesn't require money to acquire."Early colonizer plants on disturbed soil help to retard erosion and add nutrients to the soil when they die. They frequently don't compete with others as the soil matures and after a few years may diminish or disappear. Some weeds provide food for animals and insects and hemp can make human's clothes, rope and even high.
I would highly recommend reading the thought provoking What is a Weed from Illinois Wildflowers.
*Photo by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis