Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


Another exceptional year of the Mexican Poppies on the eastern slopes of the Franklin Mountains brought out hordes of people to enjoy the colorful display. In conversation, one observer noted that his horticulturist father defined a weed as a plant without a flower. Now, other than the conifers, most of the plants we see have flowers, though admittedly not always spectacular. The old standby, in contrast, still seems to work: that a weed is a plant growing where you don't want it to grow.

It does seem, though, that the tendency to go with the herd is strong in people when it comes to where we don't want things. For example, it looks like virtually everyone considers the common dandelion to be a weed. In reality, though, this may be because the unnatural lawn has become the ideal: a broad expanse of nothing but manicured grass. Yet, if we can discard this idea, how much more beautiful is a grassy stretch dotted with the cheery yellow faces of dandelions? Maybe we need to rethink our concept of what's unwanted!

pen and ink

Listen to the audio


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a production of KTEP, National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.