Thistle falls on Eric Poor’s list of bad boy plants that aren’t so cuddly.

By Eric Poor

It’s almost bow hunting season. I’m one of those people who enjoy dressing in camouflage (what my wife calls my hunting costume) and taking a bow and arrows into the woods to frighten deer.

To get to one of my bow hunting tree stands I walk past an old stone foundation where there was once a compost pile nearby. From that pile of compost several peach trees grew from discarded pits. I discovered these trees as I exited my stand one late September evening and kicked something that felt like a baseball in the dark. I reached down and picked up a beautiful ripe Georgia peach, which I ate.

The next time I went to that stand in the daylight I looked up and found several trees just dripping with ripe peaches. I told the landowner about all that potential peach cobbler just waiting to be harvested. Meanwhile I enjoyed a fresh ripe organic Georgia peach each time I passed those trees. And then one day they were gone. The landowner had taken advantage of this unexpected bounty.

This same area is also home to much less friendly plant – Oriental Bittersweet. At one time this was a popular part of wildlife plantings. It turned out to be wildly invasive. I’ve encountered areas completely covered with this stuff, which has smothered out all the other growth.

Bittersweet vines were in the process of covering those wild peach trees. So, as a favor to the landowner I took it upon myself to cut back those nasty vines. It’s an annual chore that leaves me in absolute wonder at how fast this invasive plant can grow. It’s one of a short list of plants I detest. That list includes such bad boys as poison ivy and nettles.

This year when I went to trim back the bittersweet at the peach trees I encountered another unfriendly plant – burdock. Before I could deal with the bittersweet I had to get rid of the burdock, which is high on my list of bad boys.

I read somewhere that burdock was the inspiration for Velcro. If so, Velcro is a very tame offspring in comparison. Once a burdock bur gets a hold on you it really, really doesn’t like to let go. Every year I blunder into some burdock somewhere. The stuff is sneaky. You don’t realize you’ve done it until later when you go to reach for something and find your sleeve is firmly attached to your torso.

Removing burdock burs is a bit like untangling a bird’s nest on your fishing reel. You undo one thing only to find another. Frustration builds. You reach the point where you just want to cut it all away and then deal with the aftermath.

My first wife had very long hair, so long that if she sat on it she’d find herself unable to move her head forward. It was truly beautiful – and high maintenance. She once went deer scouting with me in Vermont and got into a patch of burdock, which, as you might guess, was an absolute disaster. Cutting it away was not an option. The rehab work was extensive to say the least. Bad words were said.

Being an outdoor guy I’ve had many a brush with burdock. One of the worst happened at a hunting camp on a bow hunting trip in New York. I was nearly seventy at this point and if you’re not familiar with geezers, one of the things they do is get up at least once during the middle of the night to pee.

So I wandered out into the dark in my long johns at about 2 a.m. to take care of business. Being a considerate guy I stepped well off the path to find a suitable spot. I didn’t have an inkling of what I’d blundered into until the next morning when the alarm announced it was time to get up.

I couldn’t. I was stuck — Velcroed inside my sleeping bag.