Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Naughty, by nature.

A while back I wrote about the evil pokeberry, a poisonous fruit that masquerades as a wild blueberry. The pokeweed may be even more wicked than I thought. On the weekend, marching through the underbrush with Tralfaz, I came upon this:

This would appear to be a pokeweed strangling the life out of an innocent evergreen.

I'm as far from being a naturalist as you might expect to get---a great indoorsman am I, a kind of antinaturalist---but I had read that the pokeweed grows like a small tree. Well, not here, buster. The one I saw a couple of weeks ago was crawling on a chain link fence, and this one grew up like a serpent on the tree it is murdering. Below you see the dying tree trunk, and on the left the anti-umbilical cord of the vine, bringing not life but death:

The vine is snaked around the tree, its pokeberry vines snarling every branch, cutting life off to the needles and replacing it with its poisonous fruit.

Now, it is wise to say that nature is neither good nor bad, but our judgment about what is useful, dangerous, ugly, or beautiful causes us to give values to what we experience in it. And yet many of the same philosophers who would insist the pokeweed (or yellow jacket, or poison ivy, or mosquito, or virus, etc.) has no moral value would gaze upon a glorious valley view and feel that it is a good thing and ought to be preserved. In other words, assign a moral value to something in nature. It may be an emotional reaction, but it would appear to indicate that the issue is much more complicated than the Twain jibe that "Man is the Only Animal that Blushes. Or needs to."

St. Augustine argues that Nature is good, but not as good as its Creator, for it can be corrupted and diminished, which is evil. I am not saying that plants are motivated actors of good or ill, but that the wickedness of corruption may lead to what would indeed look like evil.

Well, the next time I go that way I am bringing a saw and cutting the damn wooden serpent off at the root. It may be too late to save the tree, but it's worth a try.

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