Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Nature abhors a vacuum"

This expression is attributed to Aristotle, so we know how long people have been observing zealous plant growth.

I experienced it intensely the other day, while clearing out scrub around fresh pine stumps. Back in April we had four 100-foot giants removed so they wouldn't guillotine the house when they came down in a high wind. Two of them were splitting, all were intertwined, and they stood about 15 feet from the house and were leaning in that direction.

The stumps remain in an area approx. 15x15 square composed of gritty sand that's been saturated with pine needles and fully shadowed for five decades. Scarcely anything ever grew below them -- until the ground was suddenly naked and in full sun.

Then, in four months, the most concentrated, diverse patch of wildflowers, vines, trees, and shrubs I've ever seen erupted. They occupied every square inch of the exposed wasteland, including dirt pockets collected in the stumps' bark. I recognized about two dozen by name and another dozen or two by sight; yet another dozen or more I'd never seen before, which is interesting because I study wildflowers and have laid eyes on most of what grows in the area.

Even more interesting, there were no baby pines. But there were baby ash and maple, sumac and poplar, even something that looked like apple; goldenrod and pigweed, johnny-jump-ups and Virginia creeper, wood aster, hawkweed, a metastasizing mint, a tangled mat of bedstraw, two particularly evil grasses as well as generic lawn grass, brambles, mullein, wild morning glories, assorted clovers and sorrels, violets, burdock, a clump of Siberian iris left over from a previous owner's garden, plus two sunflowers -- presumably contributed by birds.

I should have taken the time to look up each species in my field guide, but I became obsessed with finishing the clear-out by sundown. The resulting pile is so big I need the tractor bucket to remove it from the yard. I'm impressed equally by the volume and the diversity of this growth, as well as how fast and thoroughly it came. Makes garden weeds look wimpy!

We won't be getting the stumps dug out before winter, so I can count on having to repeat the exercise next year. After all, I just re-created the vacuum that Nature can't help herself from filling!

Carolyn Haley

Author: The Mobius Striptease (e-novel, Club Lighthouse Publishing)
Open Your Heart with Gardens
(nonfiction, DreamTime Publishing)
Editing Business: DocuMania (