Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Cutworms and tomatillos and things Cutworms. S...

Cutworms and tomatillos and things

Cutworms. Strange life for these grubs, eating away under the sod, making a space in perpetual darkness. I've been tearing away chunks of lawn still. Mary has a great love of a plant I don't know, variously called persian jewels, nigella, or love-in-a-mist. So yesterday with the sifting out of rhizomes and lopping off tree roots and piling sod in the back of our lot. A half moon of new fluffy earth next to our front walk and we'll see if the tiny black seeds like it enough. And the chinese lanterns. We popped in a bunch of annuals to hold the eye until her seeds sprout.

Chinese lanterns are a fun way to acknowledge family relationships among plants. Consider a tomatillo, papery husk and yellow seed disks. Consider the same genus growing wild round here, called ground cherry, Physallis virginiana, it's like looking at fraternal twins. How can the eye not see the similarities to a pepper seed, an eggplant leaf? How can the skunky funk of these nightshade leaves, these tomato leaves, this potato, how can these olfactory threads not take one up a branching family tree wondering what mutation, what diverted river, what bit of climate change, what long flying vector--what caused the small estrangement which caused speciation? I love the diversity of the earth, even the countless asters with their constant flux on the slippery quick edge of evolution.

I should go find out what hard bodied adult does a cutworm become? Always just thought of them in terms of the curses of groundskeepers. Can't believe I don't know what the adult form is. We haven't killed many. Mary won't touch them; she passes them to me on the tip of her trowel. Just piling them with the leaves and sod at the back of our yard. Maybe they'll make it. Maybe robins will eat them and be glad for the unexpected protein. What would be able to eat these things, living as they do, locked in the soil? Moles, I suppose, maybe large burrowing beetles, though I really have no idea. I wonder if they are native to this place, to North America I mean. The grass under which they are living isn't. Poa pratensis, Kentucky blue grass, is a European cool season grass, and corrupted as my lawn is with dandelions and plantain, it is mostly Poa. Well, I might as well go find out.

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