Friday, May 16, 2014

Beware the Bracken, Killer Thug in a Pretty Dress

The prehistoric beast emerges
See the fiddle head? A lovely sign of spring, no?

No! You are looking at a hairy little monster. This is bracken rearing its diabolical head.

When they first appeared, I thought them graceful, growing over six feet tall, blanketing the area along the fence, gently swaying in the breeze.

Then I found out they are garden thugs. Still, I let them be. We have a big yard.

Then I found out they poison cattle and other herbivores. Oh well.  We don't have any grazing animals; I let them grow.

Then I found out they cause stomach cancer in grazers and then...              

Then I found out they are suspected of causing stomach cancer in people who ingest them, either purposefully by eating the fiddleheads, or inadvertently by swallowing the spores that are released by the millions in late summer and early fall.

Can you imagine the fear this struck in my heart? Perhaps not. I was terrified. I vowed total annihilation. Not an easy task, as they spread via creeping roots as well as spores and they've had free reign in our garden for several years.

Ready to unfurl and take on the world

Last year I picked them as they emerged. I kept a spreadsheet with body counts so I could gauge my success from year to year.

 I outfitted myself with a face mask, nitrile gloves and boots. I washed my clothes and showered when I finished a sortie.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this winter so much is that bracken goes dormant in the cold, dark time of year. Alas, it is spring, so the war continues.

Don't they look pretty? This is not my yard. It is from down the street.

You can't really avoid them. They are everywhere. But you might not want to take a walk in the woods in late summer and don't let them entice you to let them in your yard.

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