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Unbidden, unwished-for, castle appear: blossoms and tendrils alike awash in sunlight and rain — growing, grasping, greedily search to establish themselves in territory booked for another.

You are watching: Ten thousand swedes ran through the weeds

Intruder, thy name is Weed.

as the eldest son of swedish immigrant parents who met and also married in this country, my dad surely didn’t teach me the verse. It’s even less likely that mine grandparents introduced me to it. Maybe I heard the little bit of faux-history-in-a-ditty ~ above a playground, or from among the Norwegians in town who wasn’t averse come a little of ethnic humor.

But, in truth? I more than likely learned the from my mother. She never criticized mine grandmother — she mother-in-law — openly. Still, a certain tension flared in between them occasionally, evident enough in retrospect to make me believe that a contempt peeved daughter-in-law just could have presented her own daughter to this bit of oblique commentary on Swedish nationwide character.

Ten thousand Swedes ran right into the weeds in ~ the battle of Copenhagen. Ten thousands Swedes ran into the weeds, chased by one Norwegian.

Over the years, I’ve heard a variation of the saying that reduces it come a single sentence. Other versions increase the details, or include a adjust of direction, just for the services of variety.

Ten thousands Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one Norwegian. Ten thousands Swedes ran out of the weeds at the battle of Copenhagen. Ten thousand Swedes ran out of the weeds, chased by one Norwegian.

because that years, ns assumed Norwegians had brought the couplets to this nation from their previous home. Centuries of conflict in between Sweden and also Norway definitely made that seem plausible. In an post titled, “Ten thousand Swedes: reflections on a Folklore Motif,” Peter A. Munch notes:

During around four century of Danish rule, with plenty of wars between Denmark-Norway and also Sweden, the Norwegians had come to be conditioned come think that ‘the Swede’ as the classic enemy. people tradition in Norway, even throughout the 19th century, was well-off in tales around the alleged atrocities of swedish troops marketing in Norway throughout the Danish period, as well as heroic and clever deeds achieved by Norwegians in their numerous encounters v the Swedes.

Norwegians migrating to America during the so late 1800s lugged this solid sense of identification with them, and also took pains come reinforce it as they relocated into homes next come their former enemy. Past that, says Munch:

There was a constant need to suggest out and emphasize one’s national identification over versus other Americans, who were no to bump Danes,Norwegians, and also Swedes together as Scandinavians: a habit which annoyed the Scandinavians no end, especially the Norwegians.

Nevertheless, despite my assumptions and also the history of nationwide rivalry, the feeling jabs it seems ~ to have been born in the American Midwest. Because that evidence, Munch points out that the rhyming that “Swede” and also “weed” has actually no counterpart in the Norwegian language, and the verses recited in America seem always to have been talked in English.

Beyond that, even if it is the fight of Copenhagen refers to a naval battle between England and also the Dano-Norwegian fleet in Copenhagen port (1801), or the conquest of Copenhagen by the English (1807), the Swedes weren’t involved. As much fun together the rhymes might be for the Norwegians, they make far better poetry than history.

As a child, i didn’t care about the resource of the happiness or its historic accuracy. That was sufficient to laugh in ~ the sound the it, and also enjoy the assumed of the weeds. Ns imagined them taller 보다 fully-grown corn and also just together thick: qualified of hiding ten thousand Swedes as easily as our cornfields hid clutches the hide-and-seeking children.

Over time, I started to recognize that weeds come in every shapes and also sizes. Lot to mine chagrin, I also discovered that their existence in our people isn’t universally appreciated.

Broadleaf plantain, who seeds noted morning grain or a nighttime snack because that my dolls, was not on the authorized list. The sweet-smelling clover that made such lovely bouquets to be tolerated, however barely. The very same dandelions that provided so many hours of pleasure — weaving garlands with friends, blowing away the fluff — appeared to evoke some deep, unreasoned animosity amongst the adults of the world.

Even my easy-going dad wasn’t immune. The illustration of a single, plump, yellow blossom in the center of our beautifully manicured lawn would send him running for the dandelion digger: a device perfectly designed to dispatch the evil weed, taproot and all. Prefer those storied Norwegians in ~ Copenhagen, as soon as my dad set his mind to confronting the enemy, there would certainly be no quarter given.

Ten thousand weeds faced one Swede in ~ the fight of Lawn-Grown-Over. Ten thousands weeds gave in to the Swede, reduced down by one lawn mower.

Sitting approximately the dinner table, as we said the fate that the dandelions (Let ’em grow, and make wine matches Kill ’em all, and smile in the process), one truth ended up being obvious: categories are slippery. Which is flower, and also which is weed? which deserves to thrive? Which demands destruction? space all invasive tree necessarily weeds? What of aboriginal wildflowers that select to bloom whereby something much more useful has actually been plan — say, in the center of the tomato patch?

In details cases, the prize is easy. Water hyacinth, hydrilla, kudzu, and Johnson grass are not only invasive and also destructive, they may be illegal.

Even the fragrant honeysuckle, a trademark the languid southerly nights, can be tricky. Western white honeysuckle is aboriginal in Texas, but the much better known Japanese honeysuckle is qualified of murder.

People proceed to tree it, reasoning to confine its lovely flowers and also sweet perfume to the nice trellis in the earlier yard. Yet they revolve their backs, and also before you can say, “Honey, where’d I put that machete?” the vine has blocked the door to the doghouse, covered up the camellias and is in the process of strangling the crepe myrtle.

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Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

A number of plants detailed in travel guide to indigenous Texas wildflowers evoke the same cautious ambivalence. In your Wildflowers of Houston & south east Texas, John and Gloria Tveten imply that the “lawnflower would certainly be greatly overlooked if it were not, as the surname suggests, a difficult lawn weed.”

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center strikes a more conciliatory tone, saying, “Depending top top your suggest of view, Straggler Daisy or Horseherb is a insect or a welcome, shade-tolerant groundcover that tolerates middle foot traffic. If you have a shady lawn everywhere within that is range, friend probably currently have it.”

As for the aboriginal Plant culture of Texas, an short article from their Trinity Forks thing newsletter argues lawnflower together a an excellent native instead of for timeless grass lawns that demand far an ext in regards to fertilizer, water, and also weed control.

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Prostrate Lawnflower (Calyptocarpus vialis)

Things execute get facility in the good outdoors. Once I came throughout my an initial Purple Leatherflower vine, the Texas native was clambering end an assortment the bushes, shrubs, and debris at the leaf of the Brazos river in east Columbia. Ns made a return visit to check out if I might find more blooms, or perhaps some that its seeds, yet found just a tidied-up an are where the plants had actually been. Apparently, someone had resolved an internal dispute by advertising the vine a weed, and also pulling it out.

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Purple Leatherflower, purple Clematis bud (Clematis pitcheri)
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purple Leatherflower, purple Clematis (Clematis pitcheri)

About a month later, amid the trellised blackberry vines in ~ a choose farm under the road, i found one more plant I’d never seen: the beach ground cherry. My buckets full, ns plucked one of blossoms and also carried it with me to the checkout counter. “What’s this?” i said, laying it on the counter. The girl helping me choose it up and also turned it around. “Where’d you uncover it?” “Out in the blackberries,” ns said. “The Kiowas.” “Oh,” she said, “it’s simply a weed. All sorts that things flourish out there, but we don’t pull them after ~ the fruit starts come set.”

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beach Ground Cherry (Physalis cinerascens)

Through the whole of blackberry season, i kept trying to find “just weeds.” mixed in with the tomatoes, blackberries, squash, and zinnias were some of most striking wildflowers and also fruits imaginable. Many of them, I’d never seen.

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Sharp-Pod Morning Glory (Ipomoea trichocarpa)
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Purple Passion-Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
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Fruit the the violet Passion-Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
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Erect dayflower, Widow’s tears (Commelina erecta)
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Philadelphia Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)
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Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis)

During my critical visit of the season, in the midst of mine berry picking, ns noticed a woman with a camera under the heat from me. Just a couple of inches from her subject, she hardly noticed my approach.

After she’d clicked the shutter, ns asked if she to be photographing blackberries instead of picking them. She laughed, and also pointed come a tiny clump the primrose simply at the leaf of the row. “I came for these,” she said, before adding that she’d started documenting wildflowers ~ above the farm an ext than two years earlier. Throughout the season, she often visited two or 3 times every week.

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“Lots of folks wouldn’t bother,” she said. “A few years ago, ns wouldn’t have actually bothered. I supplied to think anything girlfriend couldn’t harvest to be a weed. Finally, I determined these so-called weeds are pretty nice, too.”

And so they are. They’re pretty, and interesting. Each of them has actually a history, and also each of lock is a component of ours heritage. If we’re ready to get a little dusty, we’ll uncover they’re not intruders at all.