Springtime; and the nephrolepis and Drynaria rigidula have taken over once again.Forget Covid 19, Burmese Pythons and those Murder Hornets etc. We’ve got a problem.
Welcome to the growing season, or as we say around the old homestead, “Oh my back….yard”. Being a homeowner in Florida means never having to join a gym.
Why join a gym when you can get all the exercise you need endlessly pulling weeds and ferns? It’s a good way to extend the end of year holiday eat-a-thon into March and not feel guilty. You’ll look good and so will your garden. It’s better than running in place on a machine while looking out the big window and thinking while I’m in here, the ferns are rapidly taking over my yard.
The good news and bad news in a sub-tropical State like Florida is that everything grows, whether you want it to or not. Ferns, left unchecked, will take over and grow bigger than The Rock’s biceps.
One morning I woke up to find the ferns had snaked onto the patio and were eating from the cat dish. We beat them back, but the next day they brought some renegade lycopodium, not true ferns, but they do hang out together. They had breached the screen and were slowly making their way across the patio to the dog water bowl for a drink. I shot a video. Pulling ferns every season is a bigger job than pulling lobbyists out of Tallahassee. Lobbyist species outnumber fern species by 10 to 1, and their roots are more firmly entrenched.
Species that have existed for more than 250 million years basically unchanged are Ferns, cockroaches and the Volkswagen. Oh yeah, grasshoppers! This is the beginning of their season too. Almost unnoticed, they magically appear as a ravenous group of eaters. That is their job, to eat your entire ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ plants and grow up much larger to finish off any extra foliage you love. When they’ve eaten it all, a giant grasshopper the size of a nine-pack of toilet paper will knock on your door and demand the house-plants too.
I had been hand watering the new plantings I had placed so lovingly in a garden where I also placed pictures of grasshoppers with a vertical slash through them as a warning. Somehow the ruse didn’t work because something had partially eaten the little pictures and there was grasshopper spittle all over the place. They’re not even good looking so I figured that any creature related to the 7 plagues of Egypt was not welcome in my garden. My loathing for anything with an exoskeleton probably formed at the premiere of the movie Alien.
I may be harsh commenting on their appearance. Grasshoppers are related to the cricket, which may be related to a childhood crush I had for a great looking Connie Stevens in her role as Cricket Blake from the TV series Hawaiian Eye. Maybe that’s why I think crush when I encounter a grasshopper. I may have to see a professional about that.
All ferns produce spores, I discovered this in a rudimentary way when I watched the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” This 1950’s psychological Sci-Fi film showed what happened when aliens secretly distributed pods which replicated and replaced humans with beings who were then dehumanized with no feelings or emotions sort of like the people in charge of the insurance commission in Florida.
Back to the yard. Distracted by nature’s feeding frenzy and, as the dark beasts gorged themselves on my succulents, without even thinking, I nimbly drew my hand quickly along the length of the slim leaf which held them and snatching them, I deftly threw them to the ground and used my shoe as executioner. I’m not normally a violent type as I reasoned that a creature so tiny would not have developed a nervous system complex enough to feel pain. I also have solace in the fact that it was a quick and painless death stomp.
I know nature dictates they’ll be back next time (Maybe with armor plating?) I hoped that the few that escaped would communicate to their brethren about the massacre through a series of leg squeaks or maybe a text. A word of warning to those who live in a high rise. I’ve heard of adult hoppers who have the ability to leap upwards from balcony to balcony and yes, it might gasp for air in the (To them) rarified atmosphere as it attains the penthouse level. When your Nassella Tenuissima starts to disappear at night while you sleep you’ve got a rare beast who has conquered Everest. Take a video, put on your shoes and send it to its final reward.