I take my dog for a walk every morning, and it’s great at this time of year, it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, the wind won’t cut you in half and it’s not raining. I am not squinting, or grimacing, or shielding my ears – I look around and smell the roses as they say. I see wildlife too some days, rabbits, hares, seen a mongoose twice, birds and sometimes evidence of javali – boars. I carry a stick with a sharp point in case I stumble into one of these; I don’t want to get gored.

Something else I observe when walking is the abundance of weeds everywhere. They say weeds are only flowers in the wrong place, and I think they might be right. Some I don’t know the names of, some I do, and what strikes me is how beautiful they are. Yes, I know as a gardener, I should say hey, weeds are the enemy, and should be exterminated at all costs, but they are tenacious little things, sometimes able to survive even the harshest climates, so why not leave them alone? They will grow without watering or fussing, so why replace them with things that probably aren’t even native to Portugal and need constant attention?

Survival of the fittest

I picked a bunch just out of curiosity to see how many varieties I could find (if you are interested, it was 14). Thistles were hard to break off and spiky, and the colour purple was striking, reminding me that there is scientific evidence that purple, violet and blue are the colours most likely to attract bees, and are among the colours that most attract butterflies.

A patch of delicate-looking poppies caught my attention, and I picked one to add to my bunch. I know opium comes from certain poppies, but they are best known as a symbol of remembrance and hope and have been adopted as a symbol for a peaceful world by the Royal British Legion in memory of battle-scarred fields. Red poppies are worn on Remembrance Sunday, 11th November, as a solemn reminder that hostilities ended on the 11th day at the 11th hour, in the 11th month of 1918.


I picked a dandelion too; they are probably the most recognised weed in the world. Nowadays they’re the most unpopular plant in any neighbourhood – but it wasn’t always that way. They are still popular with herbalists - roots for medicinal remedies; flowers for wine; bitter, earthy leaves for cooking. But somewhere along the line, we decided that the dandelion was the enemy. As kids, we used to say if you got dandelion ‘milk’ on our skin, we would wet the bed, but I think that was just a rumour invented by grown-ups to stop us from picking them. And how many of you remember the legend that if you can blow all the seeds off a dandelion with a single breath, then the person you love will love you back? If seeds remain, then the object of your affection may have reservations about their feelings toward you. Still, others believe dandelions may help you tell the time or even the weather.

Credits: TPN; Author: Marilyn Sheridan;

There were other wild, tenacious weeds that I don’t know the names of, but there they were, all waving their heads around in the sun, even hogweed, several in bloom like giant upside-down umbrellas, some beautiful seedpods getting ready to open, at first looking like a tangle of stems but a technical marvel of nature.


All these weeds have a job to do – basically they are there to spread their seeds to establish new individuals, but they can stabilise soil erosion and attract bees and insects and butterflies who don’t care if we consider their food source a weed or an orchid.

I personally think we should all devote a patch in our gardens as a wildlife garden, doing ‘our bit’ for conservation. And it would become somewhere to spend time just doing nothing, no stressful mowing, not hoeing, not being productive, just relaxing and watching bugs roam and butterflies flap. Your own little nature reserve.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan