Just two days before she was due, I took yet another hike in the mountain. This time, though I was scouting for redbuds. It is a beautiful native tree here in PA, and early April was when they started to blossom. One of the characteristics of redbuds is that they have big heart shaped leaves.
That day and each time I walk through these woods, I am just amazed at how much work my husband has put into restoring the land. When we first bought this property, it was an unsightly sea of green overgrowth. It was not a good or healthy green at all.
In the sunny areas mile-a-minute (devils tail) had taken over and literally climbed up and grown overtop all the vegetation. It climbed the wildflowers, shrubs, bramble bushes, and was even growing in the trees. When walking, our footsteps were precariously balanced on vegetation, not touching solid ground.
The woods were in just as bad shape. The trees were choked and being strangled by white clematis, wild grapevines and worse -- the foreign invasive Oriental Bittersweet vine. You could not look through the woods and see trees or shrubs. Instead everything was entwined with some kind of vine and/or vines.
Here is a brief synopsis on the growth habit and damage caused from Oriental Bittersweet vine. True to a vine’s nature, the vines grow encircling the branches as they spiral their way up. Over time the vines themselves get thicker while the tree is also trying to grow. The vines constrict the branches and reduce nourishment to the leaves. This constriction deforms the branches and stunts growth. The greatest danger; however, is how quickly the vine races for the tops of the tree and there in the sunlight it becomes very dense with leaves and fills the treetop with it’s ever encircling vine. The bittersweet vine reduces the amount of sunlight to the leaves, thereby weakening the tree. As the bittersweet vine thrives, the weakened tree gets to the point where in several years it can no longer bear the weight of the vine with being weakened and top heavy, the tree breaks and collapses.
Oriental Bittersweet vine is not a native plant. It is foreign plant introduced here. It was not part of the original landscape thereby disturbing the natural balance. It is invasive because it crowds out and kills native vegetation, which in turn affects wildlife – flower, trees, birds, butterflies, and more.
So as I journey on my hike, there is an amazing feeling to be walking on a path, and be able to see through the woods, down to our house. This was not possible three years ago. I was strolling up a path my husband cleared just last spring. I was walking slowly, enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air. I saw purple ahead of me and anticipated seeing a beautiful stately redbud in full bloom.
As I got closer, I was confused by what I saw. I was trying to make sense of it as I noticed the redbud branches and blossoms were low to the ground, which is not normal for this type of tree. It looked like an older dead tree must have fallen over on top of the redbud.
The confusion changed to puzzlement as I got closer. Is this broken tree I see a redbud? Those blossoms near the ground, are they evidence of survival?
Can this ugly brokenness I see at the top be the same tree as the purple buds branching from it?