Treasure Among the Weeds

I think the all time scariest Dr. Who episode is Weeping Angels. Weeping Angels are stone statues who will kill you if you blink or look away. So don’t blink – don’t ever, ever blink. Sumac is the plant version of a weeping angel. Some people mistakenly think it is a decorative shrub, which is like saying weeping angels are just statues. While sumac may not kill you like a weeping angel would, you have to be careful because if ignored it will take over your yard. I’m not just talking a little bit, it will become the equivalent of a jungle. Plus it likes to invite its friends – other invasive species such as bittersweet and wild grapevine.

Sumac forest

Sure the birds love it. I will admit it does look pretty in the fall when its leaves turn a brilliant red. In certain cultures they cook with the dried sumac fruit. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright even used sumac as a design motif in one of his houses. Here’s the newsflash though – I am willing to bet cold, hard cash Mr. Wright never ever had to deal with a sumac invasion himself. Either he had a team of gardeners to prune and cut everything back or he left the sumac infected area to go design another house before the invasion became apparent.

wild rose bush

I vaguely remember my parents not liking the sumac in our neighbor’s yard. At that point though I was eighteen and didn’t understand their concern/disdain for the plant. Then twenty years ago my husband and I moved to our house and decided there was really too much lawn to mow. So we seeded a wildflower garden. That was pretty for a few years. While we were lulled into those first few years of flowery abundance the sumac saw its chance. It crept underground from the edges of our property to this open field we had created and started sprouting up. We ignored it because we were busy with other things. So the sumac grew and Grew and GREW. Suddenly we realized we could no longer see our garden or the beehives. In fact the garden itself was getting a lot less sun than it used to. Our wintertime sledding hill had become a dense maze of sumac trunks. We had done the long, slow blink, and the sumac had taken over.

wild black raspberries

So 2013 has become the summer of what I am calling The Sumac Deforestation Project. My kids and some of their friends have been hacking, chopping, digging, pulling, and uprooting all the invasive plants that have done their best to take over our yard. Along the way we’ve come across a few treasures among the weeds. These include clumps of blackberry vines, wild rose bushes, some really delicious black raspberries which we’ve been munching this last week, and an awesome blue stone which will eventually become a step into the playhouse. So deep in the forest of sumac there have been a few jewels, they just haven’t been spectacular enough to justify maintaining the invasive forest.

starting to cut back the sumac

sumac cut and ready to clear

almost cleared field

moving the blue stone

unloading the blue stone

So thanks Isabelle, Russell, Eamon, Addie, Milo, and Shawn. The deforestation project is coming along nicely.

Oh and those black raspberries I mentioned? They’re going on some buttermilk waffles with a drizzle of maple syrup – yum!

Buttermilk waffles with black raspberries


Filed under In between

2 responses to “Treasure Among the Weeds

  1. Shawn Allen

    In my extremely valuable and unbiased opinion, “Excellent Post Dear!”
    I agree with the Dr. who assessment, definitely one of the best modern episodes despite the fact that the Dr. is hardly in the picture.

    For Mr. Wright, the use of geometric patterns in his work is one of the many reasons why FLW is considered the Father of Organic Architecture.
    If anyone gets to Springfield Il., the Dana Thomas house is a must see! One of only two remodels that I know of in Mr. Wright’s career, this is a STUNNING HOME.

    Only a fire place and sitting area remain from the original Four Square home. As with much of Mr. Wright’s life and work, this property has it’s share of controversy. From the $1,000,000.00 dollar lamp purchased with State Money when former Il. Gov. Jim Thompson was possessed to restore this building. To the alleged affair that Mr. Wright was said to have had with home owner Dana.

    I have had the privilege to visit and tour over fifty Wright buildings so far, and I can truly say the the Dana Thomas home is my favorite. Wright clearly is showing off, perhaps as part of his courting style. The use of natural materials such as copper, stone and wood are brilliant in the Dana home, as well as extensive example of plant patterns and geometry like the Sumac mentioned. The stained glass work over the signature Wright modest entry is that of a brilliant butterfly. This building also strongly displays Mr. Wright love and interpretation of The Japanese style.

    No question that the excellent craftsmanship from the many skilled trades people who worked on this remodeling project appreciated the level of genius of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design.

  2. Marcy Thompson

    Sumac,my sworn enemy from away back. My mother, Mary Brock Thompson did battle with sumac on the bank at her apartment at Bari Manor, in Croton-on Hudson, NY. Her apartment front door opened on a walkway beneath a bank on which sumac was growing. Mother knew that she had to do battle with this invasive plant and, at age 72, she entered the lists. She dug, she cut, she turned over the earth trying to eradicate this living monster. Nothing she did could really stamp it out. It is hard to believe that a plant can resort to imicing other innocent plants and hiding underground, waiting to sprout up when one is not watching. Sumac does those things. I watch the sumac clump at the back corner of our lot. My neighbors refuse to believe that there is a criminal lurking at the back of our land. I go down, in the dark of night, and cross over the fence and cut and hack at the sumac to keep it at bay from our yard but I know it is only waiting for me to loose interest in that back corner and then it will take over. Yikes! Who ever thought a plant would take on such a malevolent identity. Good Luck , Cynthia, Shawn, Isabelle and Russell. To keep sumac at bay is to accomplish a feat of cunning.

    Marcy, Mom and Grammy

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