Let the battle begin.
My next door neighbor has the world’s largest poison ivy plant. It is probably the great granddaddy of all the poison ivy in the city.
I might be exaggerating a little.
But it does try to sneak under the fence and I am so allergic that my skin can sense its malevolence from 10 meters away.
Yesterday, my Spidey senses warned me it was getting near and sure enough I caught a glimpse of the first settlers sneaking under the fence.
‘You shall not pass!” I said in my best imitation of Sir Ian McKellen. I even brandished a handy rake at it. My neighbor said it was a forceful performance full of bluster and menace. The university even reported a minor earthquake but that poison ivy didn’t even flinch.
What to do? Herbicides are not welcome around here. You can’t trim poison ivy; it just grows back thicker. I don’t have access to the parent plant’s root system so I can’t dig it up. The only option is to do something crazy.
I decided to play Pokémon. The fence line is now a battleground. May the best plant win. I am introducing a couple of vigorous native species into the same area to see if they can out-compete it. Yes, you heard right: 2 against 1. Fair play is for suckers.
Round One (ding ding) Apios americana, I choose YOU
One plant that likes the same conditions as poison ivy is Apios americana, an edible perennial potato that is native to North America.
Apios americana is also a nitrogen fixing plant and that is a welcome trait. I like a garden that can take care of itself.
Native potato can grow up supports or act as a ground cover. I think the flowers are beautiful; they smell like violets. I can’t wait to see how they will do. My perfect husband got them for me this spring. (heart heart heart)
A picture of one small string of tubers can be seen below. See the cute growth buds?
Peppervine! I Choose You, Too
“But it is still round one,” you might whisper. Pshaw. The peppervine is just backup.
Peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea)is another vigorous native plant that theoretically enjoys the kinds of conditions found in my backyard: heavy clay soil, lots of shade and the constant threat of drought. Peppervine gets bonus points for providing food for wildlife: nectar for pollinators and berries for birds and mammals.
Ironically, peppervine is often mistaken for poison ivy because of the leaf shape and placement. But, peppervine leaves are much smaller, less glossy and a lighter green color. Over time poison ivy always grows an unmistakable red fur from its stems. Those aerial roots allow it to cling to any surface. You won’t find those red roots on peppervine.
I collected some seeds from a plant growing along a roadside this March. I read that the seeds need to be stratified for about 6 weeks. So, I filled a container with some moist compost and added the seeds. They’ve been living in the fridge since then much to the amazement of my son. He, like the cat, always seems to be foraging for food. Every so often I catch him looking at the ‘dirt in the fridge.’ I’m sure he wonders if I have completely lost my mind. Um … yes.
In May, I will let those seeds see the light of day where I hope they will agree to germinate and grow. Wish me luck, I hear they sometimes can take a long time to sprout.
Below is a picture of the enemy and reigning champion of the fence line. You might see it as a tree with a warped soul. The warp-age is courtesy the Asplundah peeps who lop off limbs every few years to keep it from eating the power lines. But, see how it LOOMS right out at me? Well, the tree isn’t really the problem. The problem is what it is wearing: a scarf of Toxicodendron radicans that extends to the power lines and beyond.