A Matter of Perspective

25 Aug

This morning, I came across a small, deep-blue flower in the garden. It is an Asiatic Dayflower. It blooms early in the morning, but the flowers shrivel up within a few hours; you have to catch them while you can:


Like the Black Oil Sunflower, the Asiatic Dayflower is a plant I did not introduce into my garden. Both plants produce gorgeous flowers. But I approached them differently. After one look at the Sunflower, I labeled it a “flower”–a plant worth keeping. With the Dayflower, I asked myself: Is it a flower or a weed?  I looked it up and found that by most measures, it is considered to be a weed. It spreads easily, can grow under almost any conditions except in the middle of water, and seems to be immune to most herbicides.

So now, an ethical dilemma: Will I be influenced by the fact that most people view the Dayflower as a weed, and yank it out? Would I even be contemplating this if I had discovered it was a rare flower admired and coveted by all and sundry?

This leads to a philosophical question: What is a weed? The common view, originally espoused by E. J. Salisbury, is that a weed is matter out of place; it is a plant growing where we do not want it to grow.  Ergo, it must come out. But Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

In some cases, those virtues are very hard to find. But in the case of the Asiatic Dayflower, one of its virtues is obvious: its delicate beauty. And in some parts of the world, it is used as a medicinal herb and as a source of blue dye.

So its virtues have been discovered; it’s just a matter of perspective. And my perspective  is that the Dayflower is a flower that is welcome to stay in the garden… for now.


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