When I recently traveled from the Midwest (aka, the land of endless Winter) to the South, I experienced something previously I had only read about. I think it was a phenomenon called Spring. Spring is a time when brown things turn green again, when dead-looking plants literally s-p-r-i-n-g into life and grow crazily.
But some of the sights I saw while walking through the countryside hadn’t gotten into the spirit of Spring just yet.
“What are those huge vines over there?” I asked Jocelyn, pointing to thick, rope-like creepers that wrapped around a tree.
“That’s wisteria,” she answered. “It’s very invasive. Those vines, along with Kudzu and some of the ivies, can kill large trees if you don’t cut them off at the ground when you see them,” she told me.
“It looks like something out of Madagascar,” I said reverently, hoping she would think that I was a knowledgeable world-traveler when actually I was referring to the cartoon movie of the same name.
I learned that many of these invasive plants had been brought to our country for good reasons. Wisteria, for example, is beautiful when it is in bloom. And ivy looks great on old, stone walls. Kudzu came from Asia as part of a plan to prevent soil erosion. Mission accomplished. The soil stayed put: the trees growing in the soil, though, were choked to death.
A few years ago I planted ivy against my house because it was pretty. Since my visit to the Carolinas, I’ve done a little reading. I had planted a variety of ivy that will NOT damage the outside walls of my house. But that’s because I got lucky, not because I knew what I was doing. And when Jocelyn discovered some destructive, invasive vines growing in the woods around her home, she didn’t water them. She got out a hacksaw and cut them down at the base.
When you’re shortsighted, life is an equation where the benefits of instant gratification, superficial niceties, and skin-deep beauty come out on top every time. When you sit back and take the long view, you realize that many beautiful things contain more venom than ugly things. My little, anemic ivy that grows on my house will never be as huge and majestic as the vines that climb wild in the South. And that’s okay. I’m good with my less splashy ivy since it can bring me joy for years to come. It beats the alternative: something beautiful for a few seasons before it brings about death to whatever it touches.
Are you shortsighted about anything? Or is this just about plants?