This Summer I spent a lot of time in the back acre clipping various species of vines off the young Oaks. Most of the people I know wondered about the sanity of such an effort because vines in South Georgia grow a foot a day, and for every vine you can get to and clip there are a dozen more on your neighbor’s property that are going to snake through the fence and begin to climb. I went out this morning and took a look at some of the Oaks I want to transplant into the yard, and most were vine free, still, or at least the vines weren’t some tangled mass of snake hair taking over the crown of the tree. What few people understand is taking down the vines this year makes it harder for the vines next year to begin their climb. When the vines die they stay in place and serve as ladders for the next generation. Without that springboard it will take a young vine the better part of a week, maybe longer, to get into the crown of a sapling. That’s not very long, in vine time, but each day the vine spends below the tree, the better changes it might be eaten by a rabbit or some other herbivore. Each season I go out and drag down the old vines, cut down the new ones, and clean them off the young Oaks, is one more year the Oaks have to reach up into the sky, and eventually find escape from these passive parasites.
I call the vines passive parasites because they do not actively feed off the young Oaks, but they do create a more hostile environment for them to live. The vine’s weight can pull young branches downward, and the vines leaves compete with the Oak for sunlight. The vines act as a highway for leaf eating insects and the overall mass of hundreds of vines can bend a young Oak to the ground and deform it forever. I’ve seen masses of vines totally take over a tree to the point killing the tree was the best way to get rid of all the vines.
Mind you, none of this talk is about kudzu, which is an entirely different war. Kudzu is a fight I wouldn’t want to fight, and not one I think I could win. We’re lucky not to have it in Hickory Head, yet, but Brooks County has it share, and you can see where it devours acres and acres of forestland without respite. The broad leaves and squirrely vines of the kudzu monster is not something I would take on without much sadness as to the outcome of the war. As it is, the vines I have now are enough, and I am happy to fight this fight.
One of the massive Oaks on my property, and I’ll never lay claim that I own anything that has outlived me by half a thousand years, had an equally massive wild grape vine rooted at its base. After much inner debate, and seeing how much of the Oak’s sunspace the vine was taking up, I axed the wild grape vine at its base, nearly as thick as my arm. It’s a form of botanical prejudice, certainly, and it is not in line with my philosophy of letting nature take Her course, but we have so few of the Ancient Ones left, I feel an obligation to preserve what I may.
The time for transplanting the Oaks will be soon. I want to take a half dozen or so which are cramped around others in the woods and replant them in the open area of my yard. Yes, I will have to fence them in lest the Loki Mutt dig them back up, for nothing attracts a puppy ( or a child) like fresh dirt. I’ll use soil from the mulch pile, missed in with some fertilizer and maybe this time next year we’ll see real and true growth from the Oaks. I dream that one day, hundreds of years from now, someone will write about a giant Oak in Hickory Head Georgia, and wonder when it was born, and how it came to be where it is. To have had anything at all to do with such an event, thrills me.