Monday, April 6, 2009

The Eater Bunny

So there he is -- the EATER BUNNY!  I'll bet you thought I made a typo and meant to say Easter Bunny.  But I meant what I wrote.  That damned rabbit has eaten the shrubs I planted last summer to provide food for wildlife.  That's not what I meant by food, you dumb bunny! You were supposed to wait until they had flowers and fruit.  I guess I'm the dumb one, not to have protected those tender little twigs.  At least the Flowering Dogwood survived, as did two Highbush Cranberries, their twigs too high for even a standing rabbit to reach.  And the Trumpet Honeysuckle, while snipped to a foot from the ground, shows faint signs of resurrection.  But two Red Chokeberry shrubs and one Sweet Pepperbush appear to be gone for good.

Oh well.  Just a little test of my zen detachment.  For years I didn't give a hoot what grew in my yard.  I was off to the woods or the river to enjoy all the beauties that grew without my having to lift a finger to make them that way.  My goal (if I had one) was to let the weeds take over at home.  And what wonderful weeds there were!  Violets, white and purple.  Speedwells of several kinds.  Ground Ivy.  Shiny bright Buttercups.  Cinquefoil, Rough and Rough-fruited.  Ladies' Thumb, Jumpseed, Thimbleweed, Strawberry, Creeping Bellflower, Pale Sunflower.  Daisies, Asters, Goldenrod.  Black Nightshade, with tiny super-sweet black tomatoes.  Trumpet Creeper that couldn't be stopped.  And giant stalks of Wild Lettuce that towered up to the second-story windows.  I'd mow just enough to call it a lawn, and that was that.

Then I had to go mess it up.  I went to a nursery and bought stuff.  Even though I chose all native species, I should have left well enough alone.  Just because I spent money on those shrubs the rabbit ate, I resent him (her?) eating them.  If she'd eaten the Trumpet Creeper shoots or sampled the Black Nightshade, I would have said "Help yourself, dear bunny, there's plenty more where that came from."  But now I'm mad at the rabbit: a shadow falls across my Eden.  So no more purchasing plants for me.  What grows, grows.  What doesn't, bye-bye.  And maybe this rabbit will compensate me by bringing me baby bunnies.  Darling wee creatures, lippity, lippity, lippity, over the lawn. Much prettier than Sweet Pepperbush, anyway.


Kristine said...

so are nightshade berries eatable? i thought they were poisonous.
and yes, we all love those little critters until they eat what was not meant for them to eat...have you tried red pepper as a deterrent?

Woodswalker said...

Kristine, I am SO happy you stopped by with your comment, which gave me access to your wonderful natural gardening site
I'll be visiting often, even though I've almost decided to revert to my policy of benign neglect about gardening. "Bringing Nature Home" was my inspiration to plant some native plants; some of the herbaceous ones seem to have survived the winter.

Re:nightshade berries. I've heard that Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) may be poisonous, but I've eaten them all my life -- just one or two at a time -- to no apparent ill effect. They are very sweet and tomatoey tasting. Maybe like their cousin the tomato once was, they have been maligned. Or maybe, like King Mithridates who ate tiny doses of poison to guard against plotters, I've developed a tolerance.

NatureGirl said...

I'd avoid Deadly Nightshade at all costs (which may be the same as Enchanter's Nightshade; I can't find the former in Newcomb's). But keep in mind that potatoes (as well as tomatoes) are also in the same family, so they can't all be bad. The big key is to MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE you know what you are picking before you eat it!

I also wanted to let you know that I see now why you were so adamant about me protecting my new trees/shrubs! :) Fencing - and a dog - the only way to go!

Woodswalker said...

Deadly Nightshade, also called Belladonna, is a European plant and a source of Atropine. I don't think it grows around here. We have Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), somewhat poisonous but doesn't taste good. It has beautiful purple flowers and berries from green through yellow, orange and red (see my photo of it on the right). Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) has tiny white flowers and black fruits smaller than a cherry and tasty. (I suppose they could sicken you if eaten in great quantities or if you're allergic.) Relatives include Clammy and Smooth Ground Cherry (good to eat), Horse Nettle (prickly), and Tomatoes, Peppers. Eggplants and Potatoes. The Enchanter's Nightshades are in the Evening Primrose family and not related at all.

NatureGirl said...

I justed looked 'em both up online and was about to print a retraction here, but I see you beat me to it!

That's the problem with common names. There are a number of plants I learned early in my career that turn out not to be what I had been told they were. This is a classic example. We were out in a field gathering corn stalks for a Maize Maze and encountered horse nettles, which I was told was "deadly nightshade." Years later I reencountered the plant, and when I looked it up, it was horse nettles. Until this moment, I figured my memory was of two separate all goes to prove that one cannot rely on one's memory!