Kyoto Journal Vol. 65, Winter, 2007.


Photo by the author

Bidens pilosa, a pantropical weed common in Taiwan.  


"A Noxious Weed"

by William R. Stimson

I came over here to Taiwan on the far side of the world and found the pantropical weed Bidens pilosa , a species that in years past I had stumbled across in South Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America.   In South Florida it's called "beggar's tick" because each of the small thin seeds it produces in startling abundance has two clasps at the end that enable it to attach velcro-like to pant-legs, socks, and shoe-strings.   The seeds have to be picked laboriously off when one comes indoors, otherwise they get all over everything.   The plant invades lawns and sends down deep roots.   It resists being pulled up by a strength in the roots and a weakness at the base of the stem.   When someone tries to uproot one of these plants from a lawn, the base of the stem is apt to break off, leaving the roots firmly planted in the ground.   In a surprisingly short time the weed grows right back again, as big as ever.  

Here in Taiwan, I went out of my way one day to pull up by the root a huge unsightly clump of the plant despoiling the lawn out front of the public library across the street from where I lived at the time.   The window of the room where I wrote looked out on that lawn and I felt that to get rid of the big weed would be an improvement.   It took all my strength and tact to get the thing up by its deepest roots.   After a long struggle, I rose from my knees in victory, with soiled hands and sore fingers.   I tossed the big ungainly weed on the pavement to die in the hot sun.   Just at that moment, a small Taiwanese girl scampered across the lawn in glee to another smaller clump nearby that I hadn't noticed.   With joyous delight she set about picking the white and yellow daisy-like flower clusters one by one.

Having learned long ago how aggressive a weed the species is around the world in tropical places, I'd completely forgotten until that instant that when I was that little girl's age, I too had thought this plant special and felt its flowers to be so pretty.   Seeing the way the little girl lovingly fashioning a pretty bouquet of the flowers made me unexpectedly remember.  

I stood there and watched, as her father took her by the hand and led her away down the street, the way the child so lovingly clutched her precious posy in her other hand.   The two of them walked right past the big sprawling plant I'd tossed in the street.   A car had already run it over and crushed it.


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© William R. Stimson