There is a school of thought that rather admires weeds. They’re the underdogs; snubbed; survivors; plants we’ve simply grown out of love with in our random, human way. Once enrolled in this school you can settle back, do nothing and contentedly enjoy nature without judgement or scrutiny.
And it’s true, ignorance is bliss. I used to enjoy my walks through National Parks much more when I didn’t see how thistles, fumatory, ehrharta, briza, sweet vernal, scarlet pimpernel - the list goes on - were making their steady progress from the paths and into the forest.
As I write this, in December, the greater Bend of Islands is awash with Sweet Vernal, Ehrharta and Centaury all merrily (tis the season) casting their seeds to the wind.
The English naturalist Richard Mabey said of weeds: “They turn up at the same time of the year, every year, like garrulous relatives you wished lived just a little further away.”
And that’s why the Co-op has 12 Work parties a year. In a broader landscape awash with weeds, our humble aspiration can only be to keep them “a little further away”.
Weeds can be indigenous too. A plant such as Burgan that, after the landscape has changed – due to logging or other disturbance - wants to dominate to the exclusion of habitat for other flora and fauna (such as Phascogales) which need open woodland.
If this all sounds a bit ‘heavy’ there is also much pleasure to be had from our monthly excursions.
As Work Party Co-ordinator I get to meet new people and catch up with ones I already know. We discover creatures and plants and try to figure out what they are (there’s usually someone with better knowledge than me [not difficult], who can identify them).
On just one work party we encountered: a Bluetongue (I thought they only existed around houses!), a Chough nursery, Tiger and Beard orchids, glorious weather and a picturesque lunch spot overlooking Pierre's dam. As we work we chat, wander, and generally absorb the smells, sounds and ‘spirit’ of this bush. We sit and eat, then a bit more weed pulling before heading back to the cars. By this stage we’re all a bit ‘bushed’ but for me, and I hope for others, it’s a satisfying fatigue and one we’re willing to repeat next month.