WITH flowers I have never had luck. From eagerness to plant I put them in too early, or from belated discovery that they should be in, I planted them too late. Or, as observing neighbors have testified, the soil was sour, or too cold, or too wet, or too dry, or insufficiently aërated. At any rate I have never been able to grow flowers.

With weeds it is different. Marveling at the spontaneity and ingenuity of weeds to come and spring up overnight, I asked a friend, who observes flowers and trees and weeds, what a weed is. ‘A weed,’he said, ‘ differs from a flower in having no parasite. Bugs and such things don’t attack weeds.’ His reply made me thoughtful. I must know more about weeds. Burdock and plantain, plain plantain and the obdurate ‘buck’ plantain, I had studied and struggled with, and felt that I not only knew them, but that I was also prepared in a measure to conquer them. But each year strange aliens had come, some of them in a short vacation shooting up six, eight, and ten feet high, topped with smoke-colored little balls.

For general information even a student turns to the Encyclopædia. Under ‘Weed’ I learned that the etymology of the word is unknown. How very like, I thought, the origin of the thing itself. But the Encyclopædia had nothing about immunity of weeds from parasites and disease; it merely ventured the statement that weeds grow wild on cultivated soil. This is surely a half-statement. They grow wild everywhere, and only seem to grow wilder on cultivated soil by contrast, and because elsewhere no one cares.

The suggestive fact about weeds is that they are attacked by no parasite. It would seem that by cultivation we invite disease: when we give a plant culture we make it vulnerable, in some way, and it cannot get along very well by itself. The amazing similarity between plants and human beings in this respect will appear to any one who cares to spend his time in such moralizing. As an instructor of youth I have been often impressed with the invulnerability of boys who seem to come from nowhere, show no nurtured signs of cultivation, and whatever the environment, just grow. They are hard to classify; when attractive they are so by reason of waywardness and unaccountable ideas. Punish them, or scorn them, or cajole them, and they show no change. They are never sick, they never get hurt, they can eat anything, they can go anywhere without mishap. Only annihilation could arrest their abundant faculty for growing in their own way.

From the point of view of the examiner, such human weeds are easily got rid of: they may be dropped. But they cannot be dropped from the state. Like the weed-plant, they will grow anywhere, even on cultivated soil. They grow by themselves, without training, and without care. The rankness of their growth, their spontaneity, their scorn of cultivated things, the unsavory pungency of their acts and ideas, their vitality, — these traits may be found in human as well as in plant-life. And I have a feeling that the dichotomy in the plants may reveal in weeds other characteristics significant for human nature, and for human institutions, including politics.