You’ve heard of “frenemies?” I have “frexperts.” My botanical blog query has been answered — the leaves I sought to identify on Wednesday are actually from a wild grape vine.
I found these thin little castaways littering a browning haphazard patch along the white sidewalk in my neighborhood. The leaves appeared to have been inexplicably dying early, in mid-July. They also looked … skeletonized. If that didn’t make an excellent Gothic metaphor, I don’t know what would, and I wanted to make a poem of it.
An online consensus among a few Mary Washington College alumni at first pointed to the redbud tree (cercis canadensis), as its leaves indeed look similar. “They had been “skeletonized” by Japanese beetles, which is something even a Noo Yawkah probably should have guessed.
So this is what I came up with, and submitted to Haikuniverse:
Falling early, in July,
are perforated tapered spades,
or the honeycombed arrows of hearts —
beetle-bitten redbud leaves.
But then John Puckett clarified:
“I’m chiming in late, and the poem is beautiful as written, but I think you are looking at leaves from a wild grape vine. Here in VA, the Japanese beetles love the grapes but don’t touch the redbuds … Here’s a pic of a beetle-bitten grape leaf over a redbud.
“You probably wouldn’t even notice [the vines]. They climb anything and everything, but at the ground they have a woody trunk. The leaves might be only in the upper canopy of whatever they happen to cling onto. I think what you have there is Vitis labrusca, they are species indigenous to North America.
“I like the poem though… “beetle-bitten redbud” sounds very musical … Vitis Labrusca sounds like a Swedish speed metal band (not very musical).”
If you readers are curious as to why an old classmate of mine is an expert on all things grape-related, he is nothing less than a bona fide sommelier, and the proprietor at Rogers Ford Winery right over in Sumerduck. You can find him right here: