We forget how powerful plants are, unless we stick our hands in the dirt to do battle with them. Or perhaps we break out the heavy artillery, like the gas-powered clipper or the mower, only to return a few days later and find green growth mocking our effort.
Let’s take poison ivy, for instance. The plant geneticist who finds a way to grow ripe red tomatoes on a plant with the vigor of poison ivy will put the world awash in salsa. Each summer I fight the three-leaved itch bringer. Yet it always returns.
Poison ivy can grow like a vine, as a chest-high weedy thicket, or I’ve even seen some fence-row versions untouched by mowers that look like small trees. In May, I’ll walk the wooded borders of my yard or past the backyard rock garden and admire the early flowers. By June, poison ivy is racing past the early growers like a hot rod Lincoln versus a 1960s Volkswagen.
The itch vines last summer covered the trunk of a large tree in my driveway. Leaves on this specimen were huge. So I broke out the herbicide and I chopped all vines leading upward on the trunk. Some vines attached to the trunk were a few inches thick. This June I felt pretty satisfied that I’d won that skirmish, until I looked at the top half of the tree. Somehow the uppermost vines were sucking nutrients from the tree bark and the air and the plant was thriving aloft.