Trees from Hell

“They know. They just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants. They just know, and, therefore, I've concluded weeds must have brains.”

When horticulturist Dianne Benson wrote those words, she must have been thinking of Black Locust trees.

Now, I’ve been called a lot of names over the years, but no one’s ever gone so far as to call me a dendrologist -- the profession that specializes in tree Identification.

But I took the trouble to research the ugly and unstoppable trees that are growing tall enough to desecrate my view of Cape Cod Bay.

Black Locust Trees

If I read the literature right, they are Black Locust trees, aka Robinia Pseudoacacia.

If a tree could grow in hell, it would be the Black Locust.

The name even sounds Satanic -- deriving from the Greek akris, because Black Locust pods resemble the equally hideous and invasive insect.

Although they dupe us by presenting fragrant flowers in Spring, these trees from hell have pods with seeds that are poisonous to humans. And inch-long thorns that grow in pairs on opposing sides of a branch.

Black Locust Thorns

They like sandy or rocky soil, could care less about drought and harsh winters, and grow fast and tall – 80 to 100 feet.

They are particularly invasive, because in addition to their seeds, Black Locusts spread by sending up shoots from stumps and roots. I have pulled up roots as long as 20 feet – running horizontally just below the surface of the ground.

Worse, they will be here long after I’m gone because they can live 100 years. Which puts me in mind of an unsettling image from Hawthorne:

“I found them growing on a grave, which bore no tombstone, nor other memorial of the dead man, save these ugly weeds. They grew out of his heart.”

An unwanted Black Locust cannot be removed easily. Chopping down the tree will not stop the roots from generating new sprouts (called “suckering”). Black Locusts sucker quite badly when cut down, and suckers from the root system can recur for years.  

Even if I could cut them down and kill them completely, I can’t.

Because most of the trees that stand between my house and Cape Cod Bay are on my neighbors’ property. Neighbors who mostly spend only a few weeks here during the summer.

But take heart, I tell myself.

Autumn has come to Paradise.

Leaves are turning.

And the magical waterscape of Cape Cod Bay will soon restore my horizon and refresh my spirit.

In my next blog, “The Peeps of Paradise: N1DL”


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  • published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 09:45:45 -0400