Today my running mate and I were on our way back toward home when I noticed this plant cascading down the side of a concrete retaining wall. I must have passed it many times without noticing what plant it is, exactly. Perhaps I was pleased to see something green in this industrial landscape if I noticed it at all.
Today I looked up and saw that it was, in fact, caltrop (or bindii), (tribulus terrestris).
This is not a plant I want in my neighbourhood. But more particularly, this is not a plant I want on a bike route. This plant is the source of the infamous bindiis or three corner jacks. The seed capsules have huge thorns and they are cunningly constructed so that when ripe, they come apart and sit on the ground with the thorn uppermost, ready to hitch a painful ride on any passing creature. Ouch! This is the stuff of which bike punctures are made. I am still thinking about how we are all part of one another. I finished up a chapter of a new book on Indigenous Australians and colonisation with plenty more to think about, in relation to my responsibilities as a non Indigenous person. Some of my feral kin cause more damage than others–and I am thinking that we need more biking and more cyclist-loving and not less if we are hoping to keep fossil fuels in the ground. So this was a priority weeding task for me. or, a small act of love for the earth. I put air in the tyres of my well worn bike trailer, packed gloves and secateurs and a milk crate, and off I went.
It was worse than I thought. Too late to stop three corner jacks falling onto the path. I am sure that those devices you see TV police throw onto the road to stop vehicles by puncturing their tyres must have been modelled on caltrop. Haha! I just went to Wikipedia which confirmed that spike strips are a development of caltrop!
Bindiis at many stages of development… I gathered up all the fallen bindiis. Then climbed onto my trusty milk crate and yanked as much of the plant out as I could without being able to reach the main stem. I had already tried to get access from above but it’s fenced off and I would need more than a milk crate to get over that fence. Soon I had showered myself with more bindiis but removed most of it. I swept up bindiis again. Note to self. Next time, bring a brush and a tarpaulin.
Meanwhile I had disturbed a local resident. In Australia, small children are taught not to put their fingers in places they can’t see into. Partly because of redback spiders. They are beautiful and poisonous. But mostly they hide out of the way in dark spaces, bothering no one human. I must have inadvertently pulled this one out of a join in the concrete in my efforts to collect the bindiis and hope I didn’t hurt her too much. Need I say I was wearing my thickest gloves?
Soon this was all that was left. My bike trailer was half full. My bag of bindiis contained hundreds of punctures waiting to happen, with hundreds more still on the plant. In the matter of my responsibilities to those who litter, I found a plastic bag to collect the fallen in and remembered that sometimes litter comes in handy. But–one less plastic bag in the parklands still sounds preferable to me. I checked all round my tyres and all over the path before moving. Only about a dozen bindiis collected this time! Then I checked my tyres. All good to go.
En route home, I collected a bit more rubbish from the path. Then carefully placed the caltrop in our bins and checked for fallen three corner jacks. You can never be too careful! Just a couple.
On the way home I checked my mental sound track and found ‘Willie’s song’ by Dana Lyons (you know, ‘Cows with Guns’?) playing in my mind. Perfect for the task. The mind is an amazing place. I do love it when the grumpiness recedes and something glorious enters in. Thanks on this occasion to my running buddy and to the writer of the book I’m reading and perhaps also to remembering to regard the earth and trees and myself and caltrop as all part of one another.