Weeds Like Us

Weeds like us are hard to kill
Weeds like us so hard to kill.
— Janiva Magness

poison ivy green leaves

Poison ivy tree, June

Poison ivy tree, early October

Poison ivy tree, early October

Every year early fall brings glorious color to Martha’s Vineyard, and every fall a highlight of my daily walks with Travvy is the poison ivy tree. Sturdy vines have grown up the trunk of this oak, embedding themselves in the bark like parts of the tree. They leaf out in mid-spring, the green darkens as summer approaches, and then in early October they go wild with color.

poison ivy vine

Leafless vine, early May

Through April this year, spring seemed to be bursting out in some places and holding its breath in others. At first I wasn’t surprised to see no new leaves on the poison ivy tree. By the beginning of May, though, I started to wonder: Had someone applied weed-killer to the tree? Unlikely, I decided. The property is owned by a conservation group not likely to go wild with chemical weed-killers.

Still, though the woody vines were as tenacious as ever, no leaves appeared on them.

Some poking around in the rough grass at the foot of the tree solved the mystery of the leafless vines. The vines had been cut near the root.

Cut vine

Cut vine

Yes, I know that poison ivy is a weed, and not a friendly one. I’ve been on first-name terms with calamine lotion and its various equivalents since I was a kid, and I’ve got a bottle of Tecnu in the medicine cabinet in case I get exposed again. The poison ivy vines probably aren’t doing their host any good either, though the oak seems to be doing fine. Maybe there’s enough rain, enough sun, enough nutrients in the soil to sustain them both.

Next fall would be a little less bright without the glorious color of the poison ivy tree.

A few days later, as I passed by the tree, some color caught my eye. Wonder of wonders, a young vine was slithering up the tree, and it was leafing out.

"Weeds like us are hard to kill."

“Weeds like us are hard to kill.”

Here’s Janiva Magness singing the song I stole my epigraph from.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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3 Responses to Weeds Like Us

  1. Maybe The One With the Shears should remember….Those beautiful aspens we all flock to see change color in the fall…That’s a weed tree as well….Perhaps we should “pick our poisons” better!


  2. Jones says:

    beautiful pictures Susanna. found some on my routine walk to the golf course as well. didn’t know they turn up at sunny places too.

    Liked by 1 person

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