A rose by any other name would not sell as well.

By April 12, 2010 Invasives 7 Comments

So Kevin cleared out the old playset from the backyard Sunday, and the result is just…incredible. We’d been saying for over a year that we needed to get rid of it, but being busy-and-lazy as we are, it didn’t happen until Kevin ran over one end with the riding lawnmower and couldn’t get it loose and by the time he’d extracted both mower and himself, demolition was already well under way.

The amount to which the playset was blocking our view was incredible. Your eyes just kind of went to it naturally–I mean, it was huge and garish and had swings–and I never realized how many things our eyes weren’t going to. Like the trees, and the wood’s edge, and that fact that we have really quite a large backyard.

Being me, I immediately started trying to ID some of the trees, many of which grow throughout the wooded area, but which I had not come quite so up-close-and-personal with, and some of which I’d been meaning to ID forever.

Some interesting discoveries–that’s juniper cedar back there, and that weird thing with the freaky bark is not diseased but a winged elm (aka wahoo elm) used to make hockey sticks, Carolina red maple (a subspecies of red maple) is the thing that looks sort of like sweetgum and grows just as psychotically, and that stuff all over the back is…pignut hickory.

Pignut. Really?

I have this theory. My theory is that Shakespeare was wrong, and the names of plants really do influence us. Skunk cabbage is a great plant, but just try to find someone (other than my mother and Sara Stein) to sing its praises. You can chop down something named “pignut” without grief. “Wahoo” elm is just weird. Rename it “majestic hickory” or “divine elm” and they’d be a protected species and Thoreau would have had an epiphany at one.

But silktree–silk is lovely! Let’s keep that, while it conquers the world and crowds out natives. Take my scourge, Japanese honeysuckle. A lovely word, honeysuckle. Everybody loves honey! It drips off the tongue…and the fence and the pignut hickory and the wahoo elm and the dirt and the stunted but alive juniper cedar that I cleared by hand yesterday and had no idea was even back there. And Japan is a lovely country and I watch Ninja Warrior religiously in the evenings and eat more sushi than is probably healthy, and also I was born in Yokosuka. I like Japan.

How could anyone hate something called Japanese honeysuckle?

Well, grim experience, mostly. I expressed this to Kevin, who agreed that my theory had merit, but rejected its logical extension–that we immediately rename Japanese honeysuckle to “screaming buttweed”–as unlikely to gain widespread traction.

So I cleared the screaming buttweed from another stand of hearts-a-bursting, and that exhausted me sufficiently to come in and start working on today’s quota of Batbreath.

Also I just picked a caterpillar out of my hair. I am a fan of caterpillars, I am trying hard to make the world better for them, so I only screamed a little and then put it on a scrap of paper and took it back outside.


  • Jude says:

    I posit that this is why the mad weed tree ailanthus is usually called “tree of heaven” in tree books. I mean, who could POSSIBLY chop down a “tree of heaven”???

  • Hitch says:

    okay…so the part where you said you should rename it to Screaming Buttweed?
    that right there is why my coworkers now thing I’m a psychotic maniac…
    I collapsed in a pile of giggles.

    so..um…thanks for that.

  • You should certainly refer to japanese honeysuckle as screaming buttweed in all posts from now on.

  • Nimras says:

    Screaming Buttweed?

    …I might plant that JUST to mess with my Home-and-Garden-Worshiping Neighbor.

    I already tick him off enough by just planting “ugly” native plants, and having a butterfly garden.

  • kottrbjorn says:

    … agreed with Hitch,
    I’m glad I was nice and safely at home while reading this –
    as soon as I hit “screaming buttweed” the tea came rushing out of my nose.

    pignut is kind of an attractive name.
    I think so, anyway… o__O

    good luck with it, though!
    take ninja action!

  • Sabrina says:

    See, I think we as your readers and the greater native plants community are OBLIGED to spread the term ‘screaming buttweed’ in a santorum-like fashion. Well, you know what I mean.

  • Leroy Crader says:

    Excellent post I have to say.. Simple but really entertaining and engaging.. Keep up the awesome work!