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Stacking nature's deck

Posted 7/6/2009 6:19pm by Shiloh Avery.

Spiny amaranth thorn

Of all the annoying things in nature, usually I can at least see a purpose for them.  Flies, well, their larvae help break things down.  Smartweed, well, it’s nature’s cover crop.  Ticks, well, I don’t exactly see what ticks benefit, but the worst of all of these (in my humble farmer opinion) is spiny amaranth.  I mean, come on, is it really necessary to have ridiculous spines (that can penetrate leather, mind you) all the way up and down the plant, from tip to base, in addition to the ability to produce a zillion seeds on one plant (the one plant that might have been missed last year)?  Not only that, but spiny amaranth (lovingly called “pigweed”) is also a C-4 plant, I’m told, which, complicated definition aside, means it grows like crazy, outcompeting anything around it.  Admittedly, it’s kind of fun watching the C-4 Olympics between sweet corn (also a C-4 plant) and pigweed.  Personally though, I’m rooting for the sweet corn.  Maybe spiny amaranth is tasty, but who can get close enough to find out?  I’m also told pigweed does excellent in a drought year.  But apparently, it does awesome in a wet year too.  And for what all these advantages?  What purpose does this plant serve?  If I thought you could cheat in nature, I’d say the deck is stacked.

sweet corn making ears

 

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