Violets and Horseweed

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a very comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One afternoon, Benson went out to dig a hole shaped like a cave, for the little dunnarts to play pirates in. Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss were in the garden. Aunt Moss said, “I love violets, don’t you? They’re so pretty.”

Aunt Lillibet sniffed. “They pop up everywhere, like weeds.”

“Like little surprises,” Aunt Moss said. “And they smell so lovely.”

Aunt Lillibet sniffed again, then she looked harder at the flowers. “What’s that under the violets, Moss?” She lifted up the leaves of the violet plants. There were a whole lot of little fern-shaped leaves.

“Oh no!” Aunt Moss said. “Not horseweed!”

Aunt Lillibet said, “It’s definitely horseweed. Moss, how could you let this happen?”

Benson came over to see what the trouble was. “What’s horseweed?” he asked.

“It’s a noxious weed,” Aunt Lillibet said. “That means it’s like poison for a garden.”

Benson sneezed. “Does it kill all the plants?” he asked.

“No, it doesn’t actually kill them,” she said. “It hides under them and around them, and then it sucks all the nutriments out of the soil for itself, and the plants die. It grows so fast, it takes over the whole garden in no time.”

Benson peered at the tiny leaves, hiding among the violets. “They don’t look like sneaky evil plants,” he said. “They look sort of cute, like tiny little ferns.”

“Don’t be fooled,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Those weeds will break a gardener’s heart. One day you have a healthy garden full of vegetables and flowers, and then before you know it, all you have is dead plants, and horseweed spreading everywhere.”

“My poor violets,” Aunt Moss said.

“They have to come out, Moss,” Aunt Lillibet said. “The horseweed twines its roots around the roots of the other plants, so you can’t pull up the horseweed without pulling up the good plants.”

She and Aunt Moss set to work, pulling up all the violets. Benson sneezed again, and went inside to get a hanky. When he came out, there was a big pile of weeds. “Do you want me to throw them on the compost for you?” he asked.

“No, if we put them on the compost, their seeds will spread everywhere,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“What do we do with them then?” Benson asked. “Do we dump them in the bush somewhere?”

“Absolutely not!” Lillibet said. “If horseweed gets into the bush, it will take over from the native plants. Then the little animals and the birds will have no food and nowhere to live.”

“What are we going to do then?” Benson asked.

“Well, we could burn them,” Aunt Moss said, doubtfully.

“Not in this bushfire season, Moss,” Aunt Lillibet said. “It’s too dangerous. There’s only one thing we can do. Wee on them.”

“Wee on them?” Benson said, amazed.

“Wombat urine is very good for killing horseweed,” Aunt Lillibet said primly. “It’s so full of nitrogen, the weeds just curl up and die. And the good thing is, it’s free, and there’s plenty of it.”

Benson sneezed again.

Aunt Lillibet looked at him and said, “Why are you sneezing, Benson?”

“I just am,” Benson said.

“It’s not the horseweed, is it?” she said. She held a clump of the weeds up to Benson’s nose. He sneezed five times in a row. His eyes started watering, and his head felt all muzzy.

“You poor dear, I think you must be allergic to horseweed,” Aunt Moss said. “You should go inside at once.”

“I’ve got a better idea,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Come with me, Benson.”

She made him walk all over the backyard. Wherever he started to sneeze, she looked around, and there was another clump of horseweed. “Over here, Moss,” she called. “Bring the spade.”

He sneezed over the strawberry bed, and under the blueberry bushes. He sneezed at the celery patch, and all over the pumpkins.

“All these will have to come up,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Horseweed everywhere.”

“Oh dear,” Aunt Moss said. “All those beautiful pumpkins, and the celery! It’s a tragedy!”

“Never mind, Moss,” Aunt Lillibet said. “We’ll make pumpkin soup for the whole neighbourhood. And I know exactly what to do with the strawberries and blueberries.”

They dug and dug, until all the horseweed was in a big pile in the middle of the backyard. Benson finally stopped sneezing. “I feel like someone left a tap on inside my head,” he said. “My nose won’t stop running.”

“I’ll make you a nice sage-and-horseradish sandwich,” Aunt Moss said. “You’ll soon feel better.” Benson wasn’t so sure.

Aunt Lillibet said, “And there’ll be strawberry tart with blueberry ice-cream for dessert.” That made him feel a lot better straight away.

“You did a good job today, Benson,” she said. “Our very own horseweed detector!”

Benson felt quite pleased with himself. He gave another small sneeze, just to make sure his nose still worked.

Aunt Moss said sadly, “It’s a shame about my poor violets, though.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Don’t worry, Moss, they’ll come back again. But just remember, everyone, whenever you need to go, go and wee on a weed!”

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