A Walk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ivy

Yes, the frogs are still out there….

Pine Barrens treefrog, hiding out on a greenbriar leaf.

Greenbriars are totally native, theoretically edible (at least the new shoots; the purple-orangey tubers maybe if you’re willing to deal with saponins), and very hazardous to your health if you walk through the wrong branches or try to weed without nice, very thick gloves. I’ve had their thorns go through leather gloves meant for dealing with rosebushes. At one point I was trying to clear them from a yard for my own sanity and well-being as well as hopefully making the place a bit more salable. That required thick gloves, safety glasses, a shovel, and the willingness to dig down 4 feet plus.

…As I said, they’re native. They are well-adapted to the fire ecologies of the Southeast, meaning they’re totally fine with things getting burned to the ground. That’s why they make deep underground tubers. Very deep, very big, and if you’re stubborn enough you’ll often find the mass of the tuber is under pine tree roots as thick as your arm. I once filled an entire 40 gallon trash can and still hadn’t made a significant dent in that yard. If you have a similar clearing job… well, good luck.

Especially since they come back. Because birds love their berries, and spread them. A few other things birds love the berries of?

Yep. Poison ivy. Siiiiigh. I’ve managed to avoid getting a case for years, but you can get the oil transferred onto you from contact with fur. Guess where the dog likes to run….

Popcorn tree is another bird-spread plant. Aka candleberry tree, tallowtree, and a whole other host of names not fit for tender ears. Also proof that not every idea Benjamin Franklin had was a good one. (He apparently gets the blame for the first importation, trying to make oil for lighting.) This is an invasive in the Southeast that falls under the “raaaargh kill it lots!” classification, especially if you’re trying to save endangered amphibians like the Flatwoods salamander. It grows into the vernal pools they need to lay eggs in, filling up the pools and also making it hard for a controlled burn to create the grassy ecotone the salamanders need to get to the pools in the first place. And it’s toxic, sap, leaves, and the whole shebang, which kills off other things.

Popcorn tree is a honey source, though. This has made eradicating it large-scale not in everyone’s economic interest. And if you manage to kill it off in one place, the birds  keep bringing it back by spreading the seeds. On top of that, the waxy seeds float in water, so whenever it rains they spread alllll over the place. So it goes.

I read ecology, so I tend to see these things on my walks. Take note; what does your reading and research bring to your attention, in the wild world?


17 thoughts on “A Walk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ivy

  1. Take note; what does your reading and research bring to your attention, in the wild world?


    Especially light through fog, light at dawn/dusk, difference in light from the stars when you can’t see the fog/tree….

    Stuff in Iowa glows, like moonstone, almost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love sunlight through morning mist or fog. Have you ever seen freezing fog? It’s kind of rare, the conditions need to be exactly right. Generally, it’s been really cold, warms up enough to melt so there’s humidity, cools down overnight creating fog, and then cools down enough the fog freezes on everything it touches.
      Just a thin layer, not hugely dangerous like freezing rain, and melts quickly in the sun, but for the first hour or so of sun, everything in the shade is outlined in white, and everything the sun touches glitters, glimmers and glows. It’s prettiest outside of town or in a park where there’s lots of plants.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Washington state, on the dry side– seen the tiny layer, the “everything is covered with fur” sort, and the diamond-dust looking stuff that our hostess put in Embers, where Sokka notices it where it shouldn’t be.

        They’re simply *amazing* and I’ve never seen a picture that really captures what it’s like to see in person.

        The interesting-fun thing with the freezing fog is that it can even form those frost-flakes on cattle’s hair, so the cows are staring at you with big, shining dark eyes, their breath steaming and kind of orange in the first beams of sunlight, and their hair glowing like some kind of movie special effect to show sainthood or overwhelming magical power or something.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh I *hate* briars! I don’t know if we get the same type in the Northeast, but they used to grow all over the woods where i grew up. I was an explorer and got caught in them a lot as a child. Last time it happened i was alone. I’d gotten it into my head that i wanted to see where the creek went, so i followed it until i got stuck. I had the choice of tearing free or trying to lower myself into the creek bed and trying to crawl backwards. I was worried i’d get stuck underwater if i tried that, but it was getting dark and i knew i’d catch hell if i didn’t get back before sunset, so i took the risk. It worked, but i was drenched and filthy. Oh, and it turned out my ADHD brain had forgotten my grandparents were coming that day, so i got a lecture anyway

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My reading means I tend to notice the birds first and interesting rocks second.

    There’s a Trail-tree very near us so we find white quartz arrowheads fairly often.

    And there’s a clear spot near the house with a lot of honeysuckle growing up the trees that attracts hummingbirds. Sometimes you can catch the males diving to show off for the girls. The little sound their tails make when they slam on the brakes is always amusing.

    Then there’s the woodpeckers. There at least four species that I see regularly, but the pileated is always a treat just because of how freaking big it is. Like size of a small crow with a beak as long as my finger big. And it can tear chunks out of a tree. No neatly drilled holes for that bird.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I once saw a mockingbird try to harass a woodpecker. Try.

      Woodpecker whipped around from under the branch, pecked the mockingbird hard in the head, whipped back around under the branch.

      Mockingbird: Incoherent screaming, finally fluttered off.

      Woodpecker: Shrug, back to hunting bugs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can just see that. Mockingbirds have no chill and woodpeckers just want to do their thing.

        Even if their thing is waking up poor humans by drumming the tin roof because “I be very loud, get all the lady birds.”

        Liked by 2 people

  4. “what does your reading and research bring to your attention, in the wild world?”

    Navigation and Maps. I love math and geometry and astronomy and one of the oldest uses of all those disciplines in relation to the real world is recording where things are in relationship to other things. It also edges into art and graphic design for how those are displayed on something flat when the world in inherently in three dimensions at least.

    As a result, it’s pretty much impossible for me to get lost as I’m carrying around so many ways to find North (and the rest of the compass points) in my head just from looking at things in the real world. It’s not even something I do consciously either; I just “know” where things are oriented in 3D space after having seen a representation of that 3D space somewhere else.

    An effect of not being able to get lost is that “going off the beaten path” isn’t as inherently terrifying. At least for the specific reason that it’s not the route everyone else takes. If I know where the path I’m supposed to be on is, that means I can always go back to it if I want to. This is especially true if other routes are marked already and doubly true if people have marked out points of interest or warnings that are worth getting to or avoiding. Finding shortcuts just based on looking at maps is also fun.

    This also can be expanded to not just the physical world, but also things like… philosophy trees, schools of thought, etc. How they relate to each other, “here there be lions” warnings, “the view is cool, just mind the thousand foot drop”, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. If you can find goats that have eaten poison ivy/oak and drink their milk it gives you immunity to the plant oil. My sister used to swell up bad enough to go to the ER, and now she just gets a little rash if she doesn’t use the right soap.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Well Too bad, I hope you can use jewel weed soap, people make it commercially and it neutralizes the oil if you wash with it immediately, as in within an hour, but the sooner the better.

        Liked by 1 person

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