Wednesday, July 4, 2012

iron root

Some years ago, I attended the funeral of a wonderful old woman who came from the Tidewater Virginia area. It was a hot, summer day, and we drank lemonade, ate cucumber sandwiches and told stories about Nan.

Walking around the old church grounds I spied a beautiful purple flower in the lawn, growing in the grass. The pastor clearly thought I was a bit strange, but readily gave consent to dig one up and armed me with a spoon and a paper cup with which to do so. It was no easy task, but I finally succeeded in getting a plant with a bit of some root to it. I prepped it for travel, and popped it into the ground when I got home. Some days later, it seemed to have disappeared. Oh well. Probably just as well. I had no idea what it was, and was vaguely worried lest it have invasive weed-type qualities. With those wire-like roots, they could cause a problem. I would always remember the day of Nan's funeral, and didn't need the little purple flower to remind me.

The next year, two or three sprigs popped up which I suspected were Nan's flower. I left them in place, even though they did not bloom that year. The year after that, there were considerably more sprigs, with flowers. They were pretty! There was only one problem that I could see, and that was the roots. They are incredibly difficult to dig out of areas they have strayed into, into which you do not wish them to roam. The plant stands a foot tall, and seems to spread by root as well as by seed, as they began to be seen popping up well beyond the reach of the first transplant. I begin to suspect I have a problem.

"Does anyone know what this plant is?" I posted on facebook a week or so ago, with a picture of the plant in question. The picture above, in fact. Almost immediately, a friend posted a possible identity. "Wild Petunia?" she questions.

I hadn't even heard of a wild petunia. But at least I had a place to start my research. "Weed with purple flower" hadn't given me anything. "Wild Petunia," however, turned up immediate pictures that confirmed that my flower was indeed a wild petunia, or Ruellia. As I continued reading, my worst suspicions were confirmed. Although there are Ruellias which are lovely and well-behaved, mine apparently are not.

Note to self: Before you go to all the trouble of digging up and transplanting something you suspect might be weed-like in its growth habit, do some research first. If it has a common name like "iron root," by all means DO NOT PLANT IT.

Next up, the Ruellia relocation program. I think I have just the spot where - if they can survive - they may happily spread out and make themselves at home. I hope they make it. Actually, I hope I succeed in digging their iron roots out of the cucumber patch! I'm sure I will. Anything associated with Nan wouldn't even think of ever making a nuisance of itself.

And I've learned a valuable lesson.

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