And I have no one to blame but myself.
Two years ago, I planted a pretty low-growing groundcover native to the Pacific Islands called dwarf chenille plant, (Acalypha pendula), in my mulched beds to take up space.
It took up space alright. This innocuous looking plant, with its pretty red fuzzy blooms that resemble caterpillars, has become what my husband calls my "biggest gardening mistake ever."
As Scooby Doo would say, "Ruh Roh."
Chenille plant loved my yard, too much. It spread, and spread, and spread. It also started to climb.
It climbed up the shrubs.
It climbed up the trees.
It climbed up containers.
It spilled out over the edging of my landscape beds.
It grew on top of landscape fabric intended to suppress weeds.
It grew in my shell pathways.
By now, you get the picture.
Before I bought this plant, I did what I thought was the responsible thing, and researched it. It was not listed as invasive in any of the sources I found, including the University of Florida EDIS database that I consider the most accurate. One Extension publication even recommended it as a groundcover in areas without foot traffic, which is exactly where I put it.
To be fair, the EDIS Fact Sheet says it is "not known to be invasive."
I suspect that horticulturists just don't have enough evidence about this plant's greedy nature yet, because it is not that commonly used. It's usually sold in hanging baskets, which is exactly where it should stay, based on my experience.
You have been warned.
About a month ago, we began removing it. I spent two days, about 4 hours each day, pulling it up. My husband joined me for one of the days.
A week later, it was back, popping up everywhere. We spent another few hours ripping it out.
Same thing last weekend. Rick and I each spent two hours on chenille destruction duty. We have traded in what was a very low-maintenance landscape for what seems like endless chenille patrol.
|Four loads of chenille plant in three weeks!|
After last weekend's waste of time when we should have been fishing, cycling or just sitting on the deck with a little umbrella drink, I added a new layer of pine bark mulch to my landscape beds and laid pine straw on top of that. It may slow the invading chenille, but I don't think it will stop it.
As much as I hate to say this, I think we are headed toward chemical warfare. With a plant that is as aggressive as this, a good herbicide containing glyphosate may be our only solution. I have not used a chemical in my yard in years. But I need to defeat the chenille plant before it defeats us.
This hard lesson has reminded me of how vulnerable Florida's hospitable climate is to invasive plants and animals. It also reinforces that plants behave differently in different places and conditions. What is invasive in one yard may be well-behaved in another -- though I have since read complaints from other gardeners about the invasive nature of dwarf chenille.
But, as someone who has successfully eradicated a large plague of air potatoes in my yard, and who manages to keep in check the annoying Mexican petunias that continue to pop up 15 years after I first removed them, I know an invasive when I see one.
Stay tuned. This battle is just beginning.