Attacking weeds: Or when the weeds attack

Thorns have ripped holes in heavy gloves. And skin.

Under the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2017 is the year of the chicken or rooster.

That might well be, but for me, 2017 is the year of the thorn, and I have the scars to prove it.

Thorns are major players in my attempt to cross No. 65 off my list: Tackle invasive species in my neighborhood.

That’s what I’ve been doing since I last wrote, waging war against plants that are trying to overtake the wooded landscape.

I’ve spent hours with a bow saw and pruners the past few weeks, taking out honeysuckle, privet and multiflora rose bushes.

This is not a new battle, and it is not one that will end in a definitive victory. It will require perennial skirmishes to hold the enemy at bay.

When I left my job at The Columbus Dispatch in November, I downloaded the Wild Things columns that I had written over a 16-year period. I discovered that a good number dealt with invasive plants.

Truthfully, I was a bit of a nag on the subject.

When I first declared war on invasives, honeysuckle and garlic mustard were my main foes. They were crowding out the native wildflowers on which our animals and insects rely.

These days, I would be delighted to have other enemies that surrender as easily as those two. When young, honeysuckle can be ripped up by its roots with one hand. When older, it can be cut and the stump treated with glyphosate, which will kill it quickly.

Garlic mustard can be yanked out easily, and if caught before the herb sets seed, will be eradicated from an area.

Some of the plants fight back, though, which gets to my thorns.

Multiflora rose does not go quietly.

The long and supple canes of the plant latch to my gloves, shirt, hat and hair as I try to prune them back. At times, I am fully engulfed in the stuff and can’t get out.

One of the enemies: multiflora rose.

Think Harry Potter’s devil’s snare.

The older canes, the ones that have turned woody, are more dangerous still, like nail-studded medieval torture devices.

My sister turned me on to Kevlar gauntlets, which cover most of my arms; simple rose gloves hadn’t offered enough protection.

The gauntlets have at least prevented the linear scratches that caused a doctor to ask some years ago whether I was cutting myself or had particularly evil cats.

But the thorns, big and extremely sharp, rip through my gloves and clothing.   The tips break off under my skin. Earlier this year, I bore two stitches in my hand after a doctor had to remove a thorn that would not come out.

The privet I’m ripping out is almost as bad, with sharp spurs.

I will  continue to work away at ridding the community of invasives.

I’ll never be able to cross this off my list, but this year, I’ve made more progress than ever before.

Conclusion: Till next year. Or next week.




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