Sunday, July 21, 2019

Mulberry Trees

There is a duality to my work life that I have alluded to in the past. On the one hand, I spend my days trying to save the flora and fauna of this landlocked state of ours by pushing back against the tide of progress. On the other hand, I am helping pave over creation by ensuring that the aforementioned progress is built correctly. This dichotomy makes for an unstable taijitu in my soul and mind and, quite frankly, leaves me exhausted.

Tonight, though, I would like to focus on the yin side of this couplet. Trying to hold back the onslaught of development (especially in a conservative state such as Indiana) is rather like tilting at windmills. The goal is to preserve something of the heritage and function of the natural places in the state. As part of that process, it is my job to identify the flora I find as I do my surveys. Now, it;s not enough to just wander into a field or woods and say, "Well, yes, this is a wetland." No, I must identify as many of the plants I find and label them as per their Latin name. Tree species are usually the easiest, though I do get the random transplanted species or escaped species that puts a wrench in the works. Asian Pears (Pyrus sp.) I'm looking at you. One of the species that I run into frequently is the Mulberry (Morus rubra or Morus alba) with the red mulberry being the most common.

Why do I bring up this innocuous tree, you may ask? I shall tell you. I do not like Mulberry trees. I do not like them, Sam I Am. No, not in the least.

My dislike of these trees has less to do with my professional assessment than from a personal bias. The trees do show frequently in my field surveys, however, all they truly mean to me is that I am on the dry side if things. It is only when I am home and tending to my own gardens that my disdain for these trees comes out. It's not that they are particularly unattractive trees as their glossy leaves are uniquely shaped and Morus rubra has a sort of orange bark. I don't even mind the prolific fruit that they bear as they are fruit for any number of wildlife. No, my loathing of these trees comes from the simple fact that they will grow anywhere and truly they will grow anywhere. Any crack in the concrete or split in the asphalt, you will find one of these trees growing.

No matter how bad the soil or steep the incline the mulberry will be the first to grow. Of course, once the tree has established itself, there is little anyone can do to remove it as it's tap root reaches all the way to the molten core of the planet. This means that I am forever battling against these colonizers in my flower beds and tree rows in a desperate attempt to preserve my vision of this tiny patch of the world intact.

Much like my professional attempts to keep the developers of the world from paving over everything in existence.

Now, as a biologist, I know that Morus rubra and species like it (Don't you look away Green Ash - Fraxinus pennsylvanica) are merely doing what they are meant to do. Colonize disturbed areas, stabilize the soil, and provide shelter for slower growing species such as Beech (Fagus grandifolia) and Red Oak (Quercus rubra). Their vigor and tenacity are part of their genetic make up. In short, this is the way they are meant to be and no amount of pruning or chemical deterrent is going to alter that fact. I rather view developers in much the same way.

So what is to be done?

It won't do to have mulberry trees growing ad nauseum throughout the garden, but neither am I likely to keep them all from growing. Thus, in the spirit of the taijitu, I have decided to try to change my views on the matter. Instead of reaching immediately for my pruners or my spray tank of weedkiller, I will try to see if I can tolerate the tree where it is. The three trying to grow next to my house will obviously have to die, but the three or four growing inside the White Pine (Pinus strobus) windbreak planted by the developer of the subdivision next to us...well, perhaps those can stay. And perhaps, not every proposed development needs to be opposed quite so vigorously.

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