Group Writing: A Thorn Among Thorns


I live on 14 acres in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Most of the property is open pasture, but I don’t run cattle or any other livestock. It is God’s country. A couple of times a year, I bush-hog the grass or let a neighbor take it for hay. I really need to spend more time on effective land management, but my job is quite demanding and long stretches of time at home is a luxury. I did mention the mountains. My property has rolling hills with patches of woods or inclines that I can’t reach with a tractor. Which brings me to my chainsaw.

I purchased a trusty Stihl MS 250 several years ago and never regretted it. It starts quickly and is big enough for trees I want to cull out and small enough to easily handle. Some guys golf or fish. I spend my time with my saw, brush ax, and a water bottle cleaning up hard-to-reach patches of briers and deadwood. Last Saturday I logged 4,200+ calories on my Fitbit, the majority of which was spent cutting and dragging brush down the lane. Which brings me to Lady Bird Johnson….

The story goes in our family that in a well-meaning effort to beautify the fledgling Interstate system, the former First Lady pushed a program of landscaping on the vast stretches of medians and grassed shoulders of the roadways. And that one of those plants that was selected was the Multiflora Rose [Rosaceae]. I’ve not been able to officially confirm this despite internet searches (where everything is true). But it certainly sounds like the unintended result of a large government program. One could blame it on ignorance at the time of horticulturists not realizing the far-reaching effects of alien species. But they sure as heck understood their power to do so. Anyway, my property is infested.

I stab at thee!

These scraggly ill-tempered bushes are tough and persistent. Any beauty that they bring is far outstripped by their ability to spread and create dense thickets of almost-impenetrable walls. Livestock won’t touch them – except for perhaps some desperate half-starved goats. I come away from the battle with scratches, splinters, and whelps. They crop up on fence lines – conveniently placed where mowers can’t reach. They hide under trees and make spraying a tedious affair. They come back quickly and if not tended, spread even more quickly. They are the bane of my horticultural existence.

So whether or not it’s true, here’s to you, Mrs. Johnson. Thanks for wasting hours of my time cleaning up your mess. And thanks to the Feds for doing what they do best – Fixing What Ain’t Broke.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Percival Thatcher

    B. W. Wooster: These scraggly ill-tempered bushes are tough and persistent malevolent and immortal.


    I’ve also heard that multiflora roses were introduced for ornamental purposes, but they predate Lady Bird.


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  2. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge
    DonG (skeptic)

    In Central Texas Ladybird worked for wildflowers along roads.  It wonderful this time of year.


    Texas Wildflowers – Huntstyle

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  3. Vectorman Member

    I don’t think you can blame her for kudzu…

    She was a saint for putting up with Lyndon. 

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  4. PHCheese Member

    On my Pennsylvania farm we just called them Wild roses. Yes they were a pain. I had one in the far corner of my property that literally grew as big as my house. I finally removed some fence and was able to attack it with my brush hog.. I let it lay and burned it in the winter.

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  5. Housebroken Thatcher

    Isn’t there a pill for that (rosacea)?

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  6. Trink Coolidge

    Drop down to the picture of the pup and Dog Fennel and read what Louis Bromfield did to our neck of the woods with that rose after he returned from India. Hmm… the dog pix may not show up that link . . . just find Louis.

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  7. Trink Coolidge

    Louis died in 1956 and within about 10 years the USDA stopped giving away pamphlets about planting Multiflora Rose, and started printing pamphlets about how to kill it.

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  8. Percival Thatcher

    Trink (View Comment):

    Drop down to the picture of the pup and Dog Fennel and read what Louis Bromfield did to our neck of the woods with that rose after he returned from India. Hmm… the dog pix may not show up that link . . . just find Louis.


    So many of our non-native invasive species were given to us by the Europeans, so it seems only fitting that in return we let them take home one of our natives. They thought the plant was pretty in the Fall climbing up their gates and trellises, and so it went straight to all the finest cultural showplaces and Royal gardens. Not sure what name they gave it…we call it Poison Ivy.

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  9. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret

    There was some kind of wild rose that grew in the forest preserves encircling Chicago. However it was rather pretty and dainty, B.W., so I doubt it is the type of rose giving you such troubles.

    Circa 1962 or so, I asked my dad for a 50 cent raise for my allowance. After all, the other 10 yr old kids I knew were getting 75 cents while I got a mere quarter. In response, he suggested I get a job.

    I remembered that tiger lilies and  roses were growing wild and free in the forest preserves. So I  outfitted my Schwinn with a basket and borrowed one of my mom’s trowels and went off to dig up aforementioned plants.

    I then found willing customers right on the block where I lived, who were quite happy to have me pull some weeds and put the roses and tiger lilies in their place. And I got 25 cents an hour to boot! I went from being the broke-est kid on the block to being the most well off.

    And all for fooling around with interesting plants, plus the occasional toad or frog. Good times!

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  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    This cautionary tale is part of our April group writing theme.

    Please stop by the April group writing sign up sheet, with the broad theme “April Flowers.” Yes, it is April showers and May flowers in the old rhyme, and I’ve linked the two with good cause in this particular spring season. Tired of binge watching your streaming service? Cast an eye back across the wide range of different, delightful, and downright entertaining and informative past contributions. See the handy compendium of monthly themesCheck out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

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  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    I’m a gardener and selective about what plants go into my garden. I was given a rose  — a climber — nearly thirty years ago by a family friend and kept it out of a sense of loyalty to her. A couple years ago, in a fit of pique toward God or Nature, I finally ripped it out. I have enough thorns in my life. And now I have no regrets about disposing of that rose.

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