A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

A platoon of cleomes is making its way from our shady garden fence to the light. It has taken years. The vanguard has advanced to the gravel driveway, where they thrive due to my weeding laxity. 

Cleomes are also called spider flowers because tendrils jut from their white, pink and purple flower balls. They are also called bee plants, as they are excellent pollinators. There is significant buzzing all along the sidewalk. 

These cleomes are descended from a very few we planted at the fence. They produce a very large number of seeds. They grow best in full sunlight. Thus they have gradually volunteered down the hill and along the sidewalk to a driveway that has the least shade of any space in our part of the forest. 

They are deer and rabbit repellent, emitting a scent that is sometimes called minty and sometimes skunky. If they are bent from foot or storm, they will likely bounce back to their height, which can be as much as five feet. They came to this continent from South American and the West Indies in the nineteenth century and were very popular for decades until cities and suburbs required smaller flowers for smaller gardens. More recently they have regained popularity. 

The cleome doesn’t need much help, just plenty of sun. It can thrive in a drought. It can overwhelm a garden if it isn’t controlled, requiring more care with restricting growth than encouraging. Eighteen inches is the ideal space between plants to keep their volunteering from becoming an invasion.  If their spread is controlled, cleomes can be helpful additions to vegetable gardens, repelling pests and attracting pollinators. 

 The cleome inspires one to impute a deeper meaning in its journey toward the light. One should take caution from the last words of Goethe, which were “More light!” While there is a temptation to interpret his words as the desire to take one final leap into metaphysical speculation, scholars are divided. Some affirm the leap. Others conclude that he was simply asking his daughter to raise the blinds.



Add comment

Security code

Additional information