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Robert Randall, Member, on 13 December 2001
A weed is "any green plant growing where it is not wanted"; an alien is a foreign plant, not native to the UK. Very many weeds are aliens resulting from seeds or plants imported accidentally or on purpose. Often they are plants that have escaped from cultivation or been dumped from gardens. Examples are rhododendrons, deadly nightshade, winter heliotrope, greater bindweed, giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed, but the speaker listed more than fifty. He had photographed most of them in the wild and gave local locations for many of them.
One use for weeds is as food. Chickweed; ground elder, which is like parsley; dandelion, winter cress, like water cress; white nettle, wild chives and wild sorrel were passed around for people to taste.
If they cannot be used they can be destroyed, but, in some cases, like coltsfoot and dock, which have very deep roots, this is very difficult to do permanently. For shallow-rooted plants hoeing will suffice but the deep-rooted ones can only be repeatedly pulled up and burnt, accepting that a piece of the root may be left which will eventually sprout again.