Frankly astonished to see this broadcast on the BBC (albeit the intellectual ghetto of BBC4) the other night:
Horticulturalist Chris Collins tells the story behind the plants most people call weeds.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
(Possibly not available to watch outside the UK. Available on iPlayer until July 2nd. Will let you know if I find it on youtube or elsewhere.) Here’s the blurb:
Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins celebrates the humble and sometimes hated plants we call weeds. He discovers that there is no such thing as a weed, botanically speaking, and that in fact what we call a weed has changed again and again over the last three hundred years. Chris uncovers the story of our changing relationship with weeds – in reality, the story of the battle between wilderness and civilisation. He finds out how weeds have been seen as beautiful and useful in the past, and sees how their secrets are being unlocked today in order to transform our crops.
Finally, Chris asks whether, in our quest to eliminate Japanese Knotweed or Rhododendron Ponticum, we are really engaged in an arms race we can never win. We remove weeds from our fields and gardens at our peril.
Remarkable to see the warfare against the non-domesticated world depicted so openly and honestly and, for me, to hear a lot of the points I’ve made here come back at me through the idiot box. Plenty of cringe-worthy moments, such as the botanist desperately trying to sell agricultural weeds as economically important and the terrifying wheat researchers engaged in the uncritically accepted Good Work of ‘feeding the world’ (as opposed to expanding the human population at the expense of the biosphere – more on this coming soon, or read the discussion I’ve been participating in on this Dark Mountain thread). Still, lots of interesting stuff & people. Well worth a watch in relation to the theme of this site.