Wednesday, February 01, 2006

bad plants

Is there such a thing as a bad plant? I know, weeds are misunderstood....they are just misplaced have to appreciate every plant. No I don't. In fact I can detest some plants if I feel like it. I fight a war every spring in my yard with three invasive species in particular. This year at least one is rearing it's ugly head already. And yes I recognize the irony of a person of European descent living in North America complaining about 'invasive species' taking over. Smallpox blankets are not in my history as far as I know, so I continue with my rant.
The number one pest by far is Polygonum perfoliatum a.k.a Mile-a-minute weed or Devil's tail tearthumb.

This plant made it's way from overseas to a nursery in York County, Pennsylvania in the 1930s and has since spread in a 300 mile radius. This plant drapes over and smothers everything in it's path. And it has lovely little curved barbs on it's stems and leaf undersides, so you can't pull it with barehands. Mile-a-minute is visible along almost all roadsides where I live, just draping over everything, making a hideous looking reddish mess in the wintertime. Not that roadside plants are that great. Most are invasives themselves, but still, makes you almost feel soory for Tree of Heaven and Multiflora Rose. Almost.

It reminds me of driving through the south and seeing old farmsteads
completely enveloped in Kudzu. Here is a picture of a smothered Christmas Tree farm. All the baby trees drowned in Mile-a-minute. This plant makes a yearly appearance in the corner of my garden. I rip it out, it comes right back. I spray vinegar on it. It comes right back. My husband has burned brush on top it. Still it will not die. I have even (gasp) sprayed roundup on it. I know, extreme....but if this crap gets out of control, I'm in trouble. Still came back. I haven't seen it yet and we put the burn barrel right over top of the spot from which it usually springs. So here's hoping. If you see this plant where you live. Destroy it immediately. Don't hesitate.
The second culprit is actually kind of pretty. Awww...look at the pretty white flowers you might say. This can't be a bad plant. Yes it can. Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) is a sneaky plant. It's like the jungle gym scene from the birds, where Tippi Hedren sees just a few birds hanging out on the metal bars. They slowly accumulate until, when she turns around again, the entire structure is covered with birds. A few garlic mustard are pretty. But when they take up the entire forest floor and choke out all our native wildflowers, they are a menace. I cannot rid my yard of this weed. It comes up every year. Everywhere. In the lawn, in the flowerbeds. Under my trees. In my little wood lot. I pull it as soon as I see it. Spray the young sprouts with vinegar. It will not go away. I already see the rosettes coming up now, at the end of January. It is a very bad plant.

The third thorn in my side that I cannot kill is Celastrus orbiculatus (Oriental Bittersweet).

Not to be confused with our shy native Bittersweet Celastrus scandens, Oriental Bittersweet is a voracious killer. Growing in leaps and bounds, throttling trees and laughing at human attempts to impede it's progress. It has killed two white pines in my little wood lot and it will not die. It was already firmly entwined in the pines when we bought the house and I could not pull it down. Since then, I have hacked it back to the ground, sprayed it with (gasp) Roundup, and tried just about everything else to eradicate it. It just keeps coming back.

Just a disclaimer. I know Roundup is very bad. I use it sparingly and only in the most dire of emergencies. I do not advocate it's use.


Anonymous Judith said...

At this time of year I can see the damage done by plants who strangle other plants--it is depressing. I want to try to get in places before poison ivy sets in, add that one to the list...I do recognize these characters you show us. As for that particular impolite bittersweet--it has taken over the island we summer on. I don't permit anyone to bring me any wreaths made of that stuff. The birds spread it as is.

10:06 AM  
Blogger EFB said...

So is vinegar good to use to kill weeds? I actually like that last one with the red berries.

We have crocuses starting to rear their heads in our garden. is it too early for that?

11:06 AM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Full strength vinegar works only when the plants are young and tender. Maybe a little early for crocus to start poking up, but not too much. Out native bittersweet looks just the same as the one pictured as far as berries are concerned. The leaf shape is different.

I kill poison ivy when it escapes the confines of the woodlot, but let it grow rampant in there. Poison ivy is a valuable wildlife plant with many birds depending on the berries for winter sustenance. Plus I don't like my neighbor and it helps to keep them off our property. Ha!

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

Up here Japanese knotweed is pretty bad... some people call it bamboo, and it's nearly impossible to kill. We too, will use Roundup, but only sparingly and not in the vegetable garden. In the garden, we'll get witchgrass (or quack grass)... the best way to deal with it is to pull up the countless runners.

1:49 PM  

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