Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Battling Rhizomes and Stolons

Our backyard lawn is very modern, meaning that it’s multicultural—so that grass is present in it but if it is in the majority, it’s definitely a silent majority. Much more prominent, especially this time of the year, is wild ginger, also known as Canadian Wild Ginger. Its learned name is Asarum canadense. It features large, kidney-shaped leaves arising from rhizomes, of which more as I meander on. Present also in abundance is white clover. Clover leaves are uniformly green, of course, although different species have red, purple, and yellow flowers as well. Ours is Trifolium repens. It features stems that function as branches (stolons in technical language). They move in horizontal directions about 7 inches out a year, so that a single plant will, in a while, make a veritable matting with multiple communities all spread out.

The upshot here is that if you, the gardener, wish to give the silent majority a much louder voice, you must do battle with rhizomes and stolons, which action becomes quite impossible unless you embrace chemical warfare—which is forbidden when applied to people but de rigeur when it is called for to ethnically cleanse a lawn.


Now a rhizome is not, strictly speaking, a root—although its name, modified from the Greek rhizoma, does mean “mass of roots.” The rhizome is a buried stem, quite massive in extent (see photo). The picture also shows that the roots of wild ginger grow from the rhizome itself. Plucking off the ginger leaves does very little good—and going after each rhizome, which is laborious, does not necessarily work. Chances are you’ll break it off and leave a node or two still in the ground—with the consequence that the leaves will be back in about two weeks or so, faster if rain falls.

Now much the same may be said of clover, which will come up quite easily, roots and all—but by no means all the roots. Tendrils extend and tear off, and what’s left over will grow more clover.

Tell you the truth, I rather like them both, these illegal immigrants. They keep the lawn green—especially if you sort of screw up your eyes a little as you survey the surface and ignore the presence of somewhat clashing colors of green. And hereabouts we eschew the chemicals. Nice word that, eschew. I must, soon, descry its origins.

1 comment:

  1. Good botany and interesting.

    I consider these "illegal immigrants" to be the logical outcome of the promiscuity of globalization

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