Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Scent-uous Plants

Late May and early June serves up a special temptation for gardeners, exotic scents.  These heavenly fragrances can make one long to forget the issues surrounding invasive species, and give into to their spell.

The heavy perfume of a Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica begs one to pull a flower from the vine to taste its sweet nectar.  No wonder hummingbirds and moths are attracted to this non-native.  It smells  Who knew it would try to eat the landscapes of southern Ohio with the vigor of a Kudzu?  It is listed as an noxious weed in Texas, Illinois and Virginia.  You know it is a problem if Texas doesn't even want it.  

 Dame's Rocket, Hesperis matronalis is Garlic Mustard's pretty cousin.  It is considered invasive, but it is easy to fall under the spell of  its jewel-colored charms and sweet fragrance.  After all, it really isn't that invasive, is it?  Lie to yourself all you want, but the purist avoids this lady of the evening.  Yes, her scent is sweet and she is charming in a cut-flower bouquet.  But, once she moves in it may become difficult to rid yourself of her at a later date.

A Cloudless Sulphur nectars on Dame's Rocket at Magee Marsh.
 Dame's Rocket invades native places, especially enjoying a damp-ish spot in the dappled sun.   The boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area even entertained a small population.  It is difficult to dislike a plant when it is a nectar source for an unusually early wandering Cloudless Sulphur butterfly.  Both the plant and the butterfly were May records for in this north western Ohio location.  It is hard to think a plant this beautiful could be problematic, but it is banned in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Multiflora Rose, Rosa multifora is an insidious devil in Ohio.  Once promoted by the U.S. Soil Conservation service as a hedge row for erosion control and living fences, this fragrant beauty has worn out her welcome.  Shown here at Magee Marsh, it rapidly spreads by the fruit-loving-bird vector.  Once believed to be sterile, the avian species have proven otherwise.  But even as I loath its thorns and the tangles on the landscape, I can barely help myself when I smell its sweet perfume.  Oh devil, your sweet smell belies the terror you inflict upon property managers.

Is it any wonder that the most noxious of invasive plants smell the sweetest?  Perhaps, as put forth in Michael  Pollan's book The Botany of Desire, these plants are cultivating us.  Do they use their beauty and sweet scents to entice gardeners to grow the very plants we will curse and attempt to eradicate in the future?

Ah, perhaps we smell a successful ploy for self-preservation?  Maybe these invasive species should make one wonder who is cultivating whom?

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