Writing prompt: invasive species

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Invasive species”

Years ago, I watched time-lapse photography of plants growing. Plants move and respond to stimuli and avoid pain like animals, the narrator said. They just do it on a different time scale. That documentary made me wonder what the world seems like to a plant.

Reading the news the other day, that documentary came to mind. The tenta plant has been making its way up from Mexico. Here in the Shenandoah we knew we’d be safe; we have winters here after all. Plants adapt over time, but winter is a mighty thing.

Somehow, the tenta adapts faster. Scientists are fascinated by it the way they always are by hazardous things, like a kitten with a grenade. Some have compared it to reverse transcription viruses like HIV, somehow it has some ability to incorporate genetic attributes of other plants. Surrounded by winter-hardy plants, ten thousand of these plants could try ten thousand combinations.

There are indications of new traits to the plant, as it grows further into more densely settled regions. It was never an irritant like poison ivy, but now it is. Some have nettles.

I remember watching those vines frantically reach toward the light, in some way we can’t understand knowing and feeling what they wanted. Or the ficus tree, slowly growing the life out of its host. I couldn’t help but wonder if the tenta plant had such an awareness to accompany its novel new ability, and what that might hold for the future.


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