By Wendy Langhans
After 27 years of marriage, my husband has learned it is dangerous to set me loose in a bookstore without supervision. You never know what I’m going to come home with.
This week I splurged and spent $40 on just one book, “Weeds of the West”. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not about THAT kind of weed.) I bought it because it was chock full of great photographs that I can use to help me identify plants in the field.
How do we define what is a weed? Is it simply a plant growing where it is not wanted, like a dandelion in a carefully manicured lawn? According to the book’s authors, a weed can be defined as: “A plant that interferes with management objectives for a give area of land at a given point in time.” I like this definition because it is dynamic rather than static and reminds us that just because a plant is a considered weed in one location and at one time does not mean it is a weed everywhere. And even if it is a weed, it may possess some positive qualities.
As an example of place-dependence, consider the Black mustard and the California poppy. Black mustard is a native from Europe, supposedly introduced by early Spanish explorers, who scattered the seeds to mark their route along the El Camino Real. We consider this to be a weed. And the California poppy is a native plant and became our official our state flower in 1903. It is considered an invasive species in other parts of the world, including Australia, parts of South America and Spain.
As an example of a nasty plant with at least one positive quality, consider the Milk thistle. A native of the Mediterranean region of Europe, it is considered an invasive weed in California because it crowds out other native plants. And when it encroaches on the trail, I have found it to be a nasty prickly bugger. But some scientific studies suggest that silymarin, one of the chemicals in Milk thistle, can protect the liver from damage caused by toxins, alcohol, and acetaminophen. So is Milk thistle a medicinal plant, a weed, or just personally out to get me?
So I end this with one additional question for you to ponder: if we define a weed as a plant out of place, who decides which place is the right place?
For more information about medicinal uses of milk thistle, click here.  (This information is not to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult with your doctor.)
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, May 31, Elsmere Canyon, 8:30 am. Hike at Elsmere Canyon.
Here’s a chance to explore an important piece of the wildlife corridor between the San Gabriel and Santa Susana Mountains. Park at the Whitney Canyon Parking Lot.
For directions go to For more information about the hike, click here  .
Sponsored by the Community Hiking Club
June 7, 8:30 AM. National Trails Day event at Towsley Canyon. Come on over if you’d like to help with clean-up and trail maintenance at Towsley Canyon. There are jobs for everyone. No experience is required. Bring snacks, garden gloves, sunscreen, hat, and lots of water. REI is co-sponsoring the event and will be there with T-shirts and prizes. Be prepared for some hard work and good company!
For directions, click here .
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the Community Hiking Club and REI.
June 14, 24 and every Wednesday, 8:00 am. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout. For more information call Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565 or email@example.com .
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS AM 1220 and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com .