Thursday, August 9, 2007


The first time the road-trimming crews came down our lane, I was horrified. I had never before seen or heard such a sight.
The sound is unmistakable—
something is being devoured.
Nothing is safe from the whirring monster held high—consuming every growing thing that dares protrude beyond the line.
Afterwards, there is silence. An eerie stillness, as the dust settles.

The roadside plants are twisted remains—no care for aesthetics. Broken branches, torn stems, tangled vines where there had been lush life. A barren, tortured landscape rims the lane.

It used to bother me that this destruction seemed unnecessarily harsh. Why must we clear all green life with this gargantuan egg-beater? What are we afraid these plants will do? But, over the years, I’ve learned.

This is farm country, and for good reason. The humid summers and mild winters of the Ohio and Miami River Valleys are the perfect growing environment. Our silty clay loam soil has high nutrient levels. Everything here grows BIG.

BIG is great, if you want it—but a problem, if you don’t.
In the southern Midwest, poison ivy isn’t just something you get around your ankles. It’s a vine the size of your arm, hanging from a tree, with leaves the size of footballs.
And that bothersome, annoying ragweed plant? It’s the Giant Ragweed, Ambrosia trifida, sometimes 12 feet tall!

Yessiree! This is big weed country. And although the process seems extreme, in just a few weeks, the scars will be covered with a new greenness.
Reaching, emerging, swallowing—everything.

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RuthieJ said...

Giant that's what's growing in my backyard and yes, it is 12 feet tall! I need to try and get it chopped down this weekend. I hate that stuff!
I don't think I'd be too happy to have that ditch-chomping monster going up my road. Do you have the Roadsides for Wildlife program in your area? Or does that not matter to some people?

nina said...

No, I don't think we do.
The township hires just about anybody to drive the equipment (in this case, a tractor with a long arm and mower on the end of it, which he raises to trim trees!)--what it means to wildlife is the least of his concerns, I'm sure. As you can see, the effect is lovely.
His job is to eradicate anything within the right of way of the road (as if large vehicles travel these back roads)

LauraO said...

Nina - we have a similar thing here and I hate it. I always wonder about late-nesting birds or baby bunnies or whatever else may be in the path of that monster.

One I can't figure out is I took my photographer son to a nearbly National Recreation Area (read, federal park) to a great wildflower field next to a picnic area to take wildflower,butterfly and bug photos. When we got there, we were horrified to see the park service had mowed the entire field! WHY? After reading your post, maybe because some picnic user has hayfever?

Lynne said...

I've never seen that big vining poison ivy, just the low growing. Maybe our winters are too severe and our summers too short.

Susan Gets Native said...

I feel your pain, Nina. They did the same this to a road near us.
Late-nesting birds in the area are out of luck. Hopefully bunnies run away.
One thing I would like to see is a big bush hog take down all the honeysuckle that lives on pretty much every inch along the highways. I think a definitive clearing and replanting plan would be lovely, at least in the long run.
But this chewing up of green just so large, gas-guzzling trucks can get through...bullocks.

cestoady said...

I guess we can be thankful that a mower is used instead of some awful herbicide that some power companies use on their right of way -- then the treated area stays brown for quite a while around the dead trees and bushes.

Laurao -- it may be that you caught the park service just after it had made its mowing to keep bushes and trees from moving in -- which they quickly will do. The best way to keep a field a field is to mow or burn now and then. The fact that there is a field there now shows that their mowing policy is working. If they did not mow, it would not be long before succession would take place and gradually there would no longer be a field and flowers for all to enjoy.

nina said...

Cestoady--I often wonder about those sprayings around hard-to-mow-around objects. I've noticed it's often the guard rail of a bridge--and where does that runoff go? Into the creek directly beneath it?

Q said...

Dear Nina,
Surely "Humans" could come up with a better solution than hacking or spraying the roadside vegetation.
I grow bittersweet now in my backyard since so much of the wild has been sprayed dead and gone!
I do try and understand but with so many of our species dying off I think Humans need to rethink the way they live with nature.

dguzman said...

I also worry about the little bunnies and chipmunks in those road edges, but I also understand the need to keep the roads clear and safe. Still--it's one of those issues (like native vs. introduced birds, for instance) that I just go back and forth on, never able to convince myself to choose only one side.

Cathy said...

That's what I love about Ohio. We lived in Denver for 7 years. On return visits to Ohio in the summertime - it was the hedgerows that enchanted me. All that untamed wild green - as you say: reaching, emerging, swallowing . . .