Now our city employees and a number of volunteers do take out weeds along the river. Every spring brings garlic mustard eradication parties, and the city is waging an ongoing war against Japanese knotweed. These are not, however, the plants about which that morning bench-sitter was complaining. No, the objects of his particular ire were asters, goldenrod, and wingstem.
I simply nodded and kept going, figuring that getting into a debate on what constitutes a weed with a chance-encountered octogenarian was not a worthwhile expenditure of time. Never mind that all three of these "weeds" are featured in the USDA's booklet on pollinator-friendly plants for our region, and that all three have extensive root systems that help protect our fragile riverbanks from erosion.
The ubiquitous goldenrod (solidago sp.) is a pollinator magnet. In a former garden, I mounted a stepstool to determine the variety of insect species feasting on our head-high driveway planting. The exact count has vanished from my memory, but there were lots.
Falling in love with wingstem (verbisena) took a while. It is admittedly an ungainly plant, with flowers that do not appeal to everyone, but I have succumbed to its charms.
So have the local bees.
Besides, who could manage not to love that color on an early-autumn day?
And in the fall, asters are the life of the party, the almost-last hurrah of any garden, roadside, or field.
Other than a propensity to colonize the known universe (and this might be a better world if flowers ran it), what's not to like?