I spent a couple of days out in the woods with my brother, learning the meaning of a new acronym – TSI. Timber Stand Improvement. Using a pair of loppers and a gas powered weed-eater with a rotary saw attachment, we were cutting a path through a thick underbrush of privet, wild grapevine, honeysuckle, blackberry briars, wild rose bush, and trifoliate orange to make our way to a stand of recently planted long-leaf pine, which were being overgrown by several species of native and invasive saplings. It’s hot, dirty work, but gives you a real sense of accomplishment to carve your way through thick underbrush.
Of the prickly plants, Trifoliate Orange, (poncirus trifoliate) is the nastiest looking, with its large, spear-like thorns, but in this instance is fairly localized and easy to avoid. Also called Flying Dragon, it was brought to the West from Asia in the 1700’s and was used in the South as an impenetrable hedgerow. I can see why. I’m beginning to wonder if it might make an effective garden deterrent to suburban deer herds, though I’d be a bit suspicious of it’s invasive tendencies.
The most prolific briars in these fields are the blackberry bushes, (rubus fruticosus?). We’ve been collecting and eating these by the bucketful for several days now, looking for the biggest, fattest ones. It has been interesting to note that the domestic blackberries growing in the garden are much larger than the wild ones, with larger seeds, but not nearly as sweet. Our preference has been definitely for the wild. Time for a cobbler.
The blackberry’s sharp, leggy brambles are quite springy, notorious for their tenacity in sticking to clothing and stabbing through thick gloves if not handled gingerly. While cutting through a mass of the stuff with heavy, leather work gloves, I often found myself grabbed from behind by a branch, or have my hat taken from my head by a long stalk of the stuff. I began to think I was dealing with a consciousness more animal than plant-life.
We made good progress over the course of a couple of days, but it was slow going. Among the invasives, we found a fast-growing tree from China, the Paulownia tomentosa, crowding out the little pines. A chainsaw is in order to eradicate this one, but that’s above my present capabilities.
Later, found that Scourge of the South – kudzu – taking over some larger white pines further in. Best dealt with in winter, I’m told. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.