What’s In A Name?

The word “weed” conjures up immortal tough grasses with long tap roots that grow down into the belly of the earth and scar your hands when you try to dig them out, and then stubbornly reappear the following year with more vigor. Or the hairy crabgrass that grows wherever the sun hits the ground, along sidewalks, between and in between flower beds, and every nook and cranny of garden space.

When I learned that the agapanthus is considered a weed in New Zealand, I was flabbergasted. This is plant that seems contained, growing in clumps as day lilies do, sending thick, strong stems, 2-4 feet long, at the end of which some 50 – 60 star-shaped purple flowers, each with six dainty petal are arranged in pompom-like clusters.  To me, the agapanthus is a magnificent, stately flower, adaptable to tall, graceful flower arrangements. My sister floats the pompoms like candles in bowls of clear water.

My father, who taught me to love plants and genetically lent me his green thumb, used to define weeds as plants that grow where we’ve decided they shouldn’t. He was particularly fond of the dandelion,those yellow bursts of sunny petals that sprinkle unmowed lawns, or suddenly pop up on manicured ones, and then have the audacity to turn into feathery wisps that children love to blow and make a wish on. Not to mention dandelion wine and salad if you’re so inclined.

Here are some pics of the lovely agapanthus taken near where I live in New Zealand and my poem below.

Immigrant Dandelion


Lalita Noronha

Deep within the mud-brown ground                                                                   

of muscle and bone,

pith of water and cell,

a long tap root

sprouts fine fibrous hairs

and runs deep down

into the belly of the earth.

Sunflower yellow blooms

and feathery seeds,

dare to live


between cracks in pavements,


within gated walls,

between blades of pristine grass

in sculptured lawns.

Undaunted by perennial labels—

(damned nuisance, common weed,)

they grow quietly, striving to succeed.

8 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?”

  1. Such beautiful flowers! I like your father’s definition of weed–as I can’t imagine these stately flowers–these gorgeous huge agapanthus–defined with such a disparaging label.

    Hope all is well down there in New Zealand. You’re missing all the bone-numbing, butt-freezing cold temps!


  2. Lalita–you bring me a new world. The pictures are magnificent and the poem brings out the beauty in your life in New Zealand. I think of you often and hope all is going as well as can be. Thank you for sending –yours, Liz

  3. All hail the lovely agapanthus! Thanks for introducing me to a new flower. If that’s a weed, then I’m a feather boa!! Love the poem too. Shirleyxo

  4. Beautiful. I, too, did not notice you right away. A flower among flowers. I have a wonderful wall hanging (given to me by one of my gardening friends) that says, “May all your weeds be wild flowers.” I cherish it.

    What’s this talk of where you live in N.Z. I’m expecting to see you in July.

  5. from Therese L. Broderick (Albany, NY, USA) — Poignant extended metaphor about immigration. The phrase “within gated walls” is especially heartbreaking. All of us are immigrants, no? Thanks for sharing this poem.

  6. Gorgeous–we should have such weeds! It looks a lot like alstroemerias, sales of which are helping offer an alternative to drug crops in the countries where they grow, providing an economic alternative. Trader Joe sells alstroemerias for $4 a pop, they last. At least ten days, and they are glorious in winter.

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