I consider myself a lover of plants, including vines. Think of wisteria, grapes, red runner beans, and peas. But I strongly object to several vines that seem to be asserting dominion in a number of environments I have visited in recent months. Here are some terrifying examples:
Japanese Knotweed: I see this everywhere in Vermont, some as close as ¼ mile from our farm. This weed should be careful about treading any closer as I will battle it until one of us can fight no longer. Knotweed is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s worst invasive species. It was first brought to London’s Kew Gardens in 1850. Now in England and Australia it is illegal to have this species anywhere on your property. In the United States our reverence for property rights probably makes such a prohibition unconstitutional, still I would liked to propose like legislation to the Vermont Senate.
In Georgia and South Carolina I was alarmed to see that Kudzu is suffocating the earth and everything that grows in it. It will even eat a house if not fought off. It was introduced to North America in 1876 at a Philadelphia exhibition and helped to spread by farmers who used it to control soil erosion. It is also edible, but I have yet to find it in the Stop & Shop.
The Oriental bittersweet vine can, in limited sizes, be decorative. A few delicate feet of vine with red berries will make a lovely wreath. The problem is that these vines have no sense of proper proportions. They grow up to 40 feet long and 4 inches in diameter and strangle any tree they take a fancy to.
Finally, I come to my personal enemy, Poison Ivy. This member of the pistachio and cashew family can be quite lovely to look at. (See photos.) But any intimacy with it will reveal its true soul. It is an enemy of mankind. During a recent trip Shyla and I took to Martha’s Vineyard, we found that where there were not lawns, plowed or grazed fields, or deep woods, there was a jungle of vines, including vast reaches of bittersweet, thorny blackberry, grape, and poison ivy in wild embrace and impenetrable to any human not astride a bulldozer. Goats are happy to eat poison ivy, and it doesn’t bother their stomachs. They don’t eat the roots, so the plants keep coming back until you have enough goats that the plant can no longer produce a leaf. Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful place, and would be so much more accommodating with the introduction of ten thousand goats.
Yours From The Field,