Houttuynia (hoo-TY-nee-ah)

Several years ago, before I had started learning about native plants and landscaping choices, a neighbor brought me a beautiful bunch of…well, I don’t know what it was. For the last 8 years I haven’t known what it’s even called. Until today, after taking a cutting and a section of its tuberous root to a local garden center.

Houttuynia. It’s Latin for “You-Can’t-Kill-Me-No-Matter-What-You-Do-And-I-Will-Invade-Every-Part-Of-Your-Yard.”

A fast-spreading ground cover with green and white variegated leaves that change to a brilliant scarlet and cream in late summer, it’s also called “Chaemleon Plant”—most likely ‘cuz it tricks you into thinking it’s one thing (aw-www, aren’t the tiny white flowers lovely), and then changes into quite another  thing entirely (a perennial succubus that feeds on its ability to destroy everything in its path). Oh yeah, it has an unpleasant smell, too, that lingers long after washing hands.

There is virtually no easy way—potentially no good way—to rid yourself of it. That’s not what my current neighbors who share the adjoining landscape bed want to hear. Me either. Every year I take a whack at it, and now that I know what it is, I’ve read that every time you rip out the roots, it just puts ’em out again in other directions, strengthening its hold on the garden and on me.

I wish I had its tenacity in my faith and my resolve. Yesterday alone it caused me to express some things I will need to confess when I go to Reconciliation this coming Holy Week, as I ripped and tore at its noxious tendrils popping up all through the garden bed, before throwing in the trowel…I mean towel.

Houttuynia “one”…me “zero”


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