Friday, May 04, 2007


Dug up, poisoned, and reviled, the Dandelion thrives as a species. WHY?

Besides what is the big problem with Dandelions anyway? They're a bright friendly yellow, drought resistant, grow easily, and as they're pollinated by ants, are lush with no problem at all.
AND-- they are the product of human desire.
"What?", you say. "Most people over six-years-old, loathe Dandelions. Nobody in their right mind desires a yard full of Dandelions!"
Ahhhhh, there's the rub. A lawn full of Dandelions...
Today, while mowing the lawn, something I haven't done in decades, (we don't have lawns on the 27th floor in NYC or anywhere else I've lived lately), I found it a very negative experience in any number of ways, large and small:
1. It's an utter hideous waste of time.
2. It chops off the grass so that it can't go to seed, thereby reducing the amount of food available for seed eating species of birds and rodents for mouse eating hawks.
3. It's loud so there aren't any birds around to look at while you suffer.
4. Mowing is responsible for the extirpation of species like the Harrier Hawk, as they are ground nesters and their nests and young get mowed.
5. And if that weren't enough, it's hard physical work for a negative outcome. (Nobody seemed to know where the battery was for the family ride on lawn mower. Did I mention, it's polluting and uses fossil fuel?)
Why was I doing it? Good question.
Back in 2001 I read a book that changed my thinking about the interaction between humans and plants forever. The book was THE BOTANY OF DESIRE by Michael Pollan. He theorized that plants want to grow and reproduce just like all other species. therefore they've developed the facility to become what we want. He realized the word "want" was anthropomorphic but using it was shorthand for something that would have had to be explained at length in technical biological terms over and over during the book so the word want helped us get on to the interesting parts. A bit like using the name Pale Male instead of having to say every time he was mentioned, the male Red-tailed hawk in Central Park that nests at 927 Fifth Avenue, who's mate is Lola-oops can't say Lola, she'd be...
You get the idea, I hope.
At any rate, Pollan surmised that many of the plants in the world that are the most successful are the plants that humans desired. We desire them so we grow them in droves and protect them from competition jealously. We desire them for sweetness like the apple, for beauty like the tulip, for intoxication like marijuana, or for control like the potato.
Think Idaho potatoes. Those big long uniform spuds that make the most perfect french fries for McDonalds.
And what is it that humans desire that makes the Dandelion so prevalent? We, well many of us, desire a controlled uniform mowed mono cultured carpet of green grass.
And even if some of us don't, the dominion of the mowed lawn people is strong. In fact it's a desire that has been institutionalized. It's illegal not to mow your lawn in many places. If you don't mow your lawn, you'll get a summons and have to pay a fine. In Wisconsin not only do you have to mow it, but having what's thought of as "dangerous weeds" in your lawn, that desired monoculture, can cost you too.
Now that's a strong desire. This regimented grass thing.
"Okay, okay", you ask, "Where does this supposed desire for Dandelions come in?"
I'd not thought it through before today, but the strong human desire for some species is a boon to others who have the same basic living requirements but are better at what they do than the "desired" species is.
Voila! Dandelions. And what a problem, as the specific desire involved for that expanse of mono cultured cropped grass is CONTROL.
Enter the "uncontrollable" Dandelion.
Therefore nearly everything the lawn folks can think of , bar none, is tried from poisoning the earth to making it cost money if you don't conform, all to extirpate the Dandelions, and none, let me say it again, NONE, of it works worth diddley.
What does work?
It's extremely simple and so easy.
Let your grass grow to maturation and it shades the Dandelions into nonexistence.
Donegal Browne

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