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Report From PIA – November 23

Last week I was weeding up in the cutting garden, and came across a few Smilax rotundifolia shoots as I worked. This plant is commonly known as bull brier, catbrier or greenbrier, and anyone who fights it on their property comes to hate it.

This climbing vine has strong canes that are filled with thorns, making it difficult to pull unless you have cast iron gloves on. Whenever I hear someone talk about how desirable native plants are, I think, “Maybe not all native plants…” because Smilax is native to the Northeast United States.

Any gardener that has tried to tug greenbrier out of the garden quickly finds that the vines are attached to roots that just don’t quit. I will drag a Smilax root out of the ground over twenty feet before it breaks, and I’ll still not be at the end of it. Many times the root I’m pulling will snap because it is growing under another Smilax root that is growing perpendicular to it.

I know if I had x-ray glasses and could see through dirt, I would find a woven net of Smilax roots all over this entire property. These roots are the key to this plant’s success. Sure, the thorns keep the animals away from the vines, but the roots are thick, with periodic round nodules, and are perfect for storing vast amounts of energy.

As I battle this plant, I pull out and clip off the new vines I find have sprung up overnight. I can practically hear those roots snickering. “Sure, you’ll get that shoot,” I hear them scoff, “but not to worry…we’ll just send up another three or four, or twenty.”

As I pulled the roots that day, I put anthropomorphism and frustration aside and thought of what these roots provide for the plant: support, the source of nourishment, and a good supply of stored energy for the future. I wonder if I have deep roots that do the same for me.

Faith functions as a deep root system for me. I know that I’m supported, nourished, and energized by God/spirit.

My core beliefs provide sustenance and a supply of stored power. When I’m feeling discouraged, just reading them over makes me feel better. They are: 1. An individual can make a difference. 2. Life is about growth. 3. Everything is connected. 4. Saying thank you and being generous are important. 5. The good stuff usually takes some effort.

And I’m blessed to have dear people and loved ones in my life, who are a root system that even green brier would envy.

I’ll continue to pull this plant up as I come upon it, but I’ll try not to hate it. “I recognize you,” I’ll say. “We’re not so different, you and I…we both have deep roots.”

This Smilax root broke off when I had about fifteen feet out of the ground.

This Smilax root broke off when I had about fifteen feet out of the ground.

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