Monday, June 09, 2014

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Mars and I live in Connecticut – but we vacation frequently in coastal North Carolina so we know a little something about kudzu, aka Pueraria lobata, aka "The vine that ate the South." 

We have in our pre-digital archives the first photo that we took upon entering the Tar Heel State for the initial time.  It was 1983 and with our son Bram we were on our way to spend two weeks at a sight-unseen RV set up by a family friend on land that he and his wife had purchased for future retirement in Carteret, N.C.  We had driven down, as we still do, through the Delmarva, over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and onto the increasingly rural back roads of the south.  It was our son’s and my first time.  Mars had made a similar childhood trip with her family.

We all joked somewhat uneasily about the less than luxurious ambience of the surroundings that we were driving through.  Then, just across the Va.- N.C. border we saw “the house”  – a crumbling, rotting, brown wood structure enfolded and held up by a shroud of green, ever-expanding vines and leaves.  Mars hopped out to capture the sight on film.  All of us hoped that this was not a foreshadowing of what awaited us.

It wasn’t.

But each subsequent time that Mars and I have driven past the site there is more and more kudzu, and less and less building.  And I wonder – what plant is planning on devouring my neck of the woods?  And when will it (or did it) start?

This week I have seen two definite indicators that one or both of a pair of invasives has begun its attack.

Up the street from us – sad to say – is an abandoned, foreclosed abode.  A casual driver-by would not notice this condition – winter snow was removed, springtime grass is neatly mowed.   

Then the other day Mars spotted something new and strange as we drove by on our way home from the health club.  Climbing up the downspout at the front, west corner was a yellow Euonymus bush – much like the ones seen on many lawns, on many properties in central CT – much like the one in the very same geographic location of our front yard.   
It was the first time either of us had seen anything like that – from Euonymus anyway.  We’ve both seen plenty of identical behavior from Carolina Kudzu.  And we both know full well that – with plants as with other revolutionaries – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

But sprawling Euonymus is awfully obvious.  Another takeover is happening beneath our line of sight – and, in fact, largely underneath the very earth that we walk upon.  I refer of course to the Queen Anne’s Lace uprising – or should I more accurately phrase it underground insurgency.

In the past two weeks I have come across more wild carrots (aka Daucus carota) than I can recall in all of my nearly half-century of down and dirty gardening.  A few years ago they were a pleasant unplanned surprise addition to the variety of the landscape – now you can’t swing a dead cattail without hitting at least one (if not several) of the feathery, pinnate leaves of this biennial faux vegetable.

They are taking over the outer borders of just about all of our perennial beds and – worst of all and hardest to eradicate – they having taken root under (yes under) several of the most thorny bushes in the town’s Weston Rose Garden, which the members of our garden club maintain.

And excising these devious encroachers from their highly fortified bases of operation is no small thing – fraught with skin-piercing, blood-dripping danger. 

On the plus side however, since I needed to sever several little rootlets sent forth by the terrible tubers that served as the bases of these pushy plants, it did give me my first real opportunity to use the tiny sawing blade that’s stashed inside my multi-weapon Swiss-Army-like garden tool.  Removing these ginormous taproots is hard work but doable.  Not so with their threadlike appendages.

And, it is these partially severed tendrils that I was not able to get to the root of that I now fear the most.  As I write this, these insidious invaders are insinuating their way through the nurturing soil innocently provided by unwitting gardeners and preparing to pop up where they are least expected and most likely not wanted. 

Be afraid, be very afraid.

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