The perfect plant

    Writing so much about unwanted plants the last few posts I am reminded that no plant achieves anything closer to perfection than a weed.

    Editor’s note: With gardening, and weed season now in full swing Nicole has assembled a list of Ground Level’s least wanted weeds in Northwest Philadelphia. The plant below is the final least wanted weed in the series, you may know it well.

    Writing so much about unwanted plants the last few posts I am reminded that no plant achieves anything closer to perfection than a weed.

    The last plant I’ll be profiling for now is the ultimate example of a plant with almost, almost all the qualities a gardener could ever dream of. Let’s look at the criteria most of us would use to gauge a plant’s desirability:

    First of all, our perfect plant must be easy to care for and long lived. It should be able to thrive in exposures ranging from full sun to full shade, and look good in drought conditions as well as during prolonged wet spells. It should be attractive, with foliage that isn’t prone to insect damage or disease, and that foliage should have stunning fall color, for sure. Our plant should definitely have wildlife value, maybe as a food source for migratory birds. And it needs to be native. As a plus, it should be able to adapt to being a climbing vine, a woody shrub, or a groundcover, depending on the landscape in which it is being used.

    The only plant I know of that embodies every one of the above qualities is our own poison ivy. In all my many encounters with this plant, I have never seen a specimen look like anything less than the poster child for health and vigor. If not for the pesky acute dermatitis it causes in most (but not all) people, it would undoubtedly be one of the most popular landscape plants in America. Can’t you picture it, festooning entire buildings and covering embankments? Home Depot would sell it by the pallet, and tidy beds of it would be present in every municipal landscape east of the Mississippi. Timid gardeners would eagerly fill their shopping carts with this easy-care plant, while sophisticated gardeners would turn up their noses, complaining how overuse of this particular American ivy made it too boring to consider using in the garden anymore.

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