Rosa_multiflora_a03

"The dossier on multiflora rose is thick, having been opened in the 1880s when it made its debut in America, having been imported from Japan. Promoted as a boon to farmers and ranchers, it was billed as a 'natural fence,'" writes Eagle columnist D.R. Bahlman. "It was, it seemed, a truly Good Idea. That was before the dark side of its nature emerged: It is a ruthless land-grabber, cropping up everywhere, fast-growing and highly resistant to many control methods."

WILLIAMSTOWN — Six weeks ago, a heavy-duty tractor with a mower bar was put to work on the acre (give or take) of our property that grows (more or less) wild.

There are some old apple trees down there, five or six full-grown locust trees, tall evergreens, knee-deep meadow grass, several families of deer, scores of rodents, countless ticks — and multiflora rose.

The object of the tractor’s annual visit, which now is managed by Robert Sweet Jr. and formerly for many years by Wayne Morrison, is to level the field grass and engage in combat with the multiflora rose, an invasive plant which may require an introduction.

The dossier on MFR is thick, having been opened in the 1880s when it made its debut in America, having been imported from Japan. A pretty bush with pleasingly scented flowers, it was warmly received. Promoted as a boon to farmers and ranchers, it was billed as a “natural fence,” its dense tangle of thorned branches being impenetrable by cattle, sheep or horses. Even buffalo couldn’t get through it. It also made an excellent wind break and it was a first-rate erosion controller.

It was, it seemed, a truly Good Idea. That was before the dark side of its nature emerged: It is a ruthless land-grabber, cropping up everywhere, fast-growing and highly resistant to many control methods. Indeed, the only effective weapons against its relentless spread appear to be uprooting it or poisoning it.

The latter strategy is dangerous, requiring the use of herbicides that either threaten the health of all vegetation in the vicinity or are unsafe for mammals and/or aquatic invertebrates.

Poison having been banned from this property for many years — following a long-ago incident involving two well-meaning but clueless guys, a cyanide-based smoke bomb for rodents, a retching golden retriever and lingering human nausea — our options have been narrowed to one: repeated mowing. We’re informed — accurately — that this is as likely to spread multiflora rose as it is to “discourage” it, but we’re not inclined to roll the dice with herbicides, dig the stuff up and/or set it on fire, tempting as that is. Rather, as we survey the view of the MFR-dotted “Lower 40,” as it’s jokingly referred to, we’re reminded that the goodness of some ideas fades fast, and the wisest course is to heed — or at least hear — even soft-spoken words of warning.

These are being heard at increasing volume from researchers and others concerned with the environmental impacts of the manufacture and recycling of electric vehicle batteries.

“The battery pack of a Tesla Model S is a feat of intricate engineering,” reads the first line of a May 2021 article in Science magazine by Ian Morse. “Thousands of cylindrical cells with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions. But when the battery comes to the end of its life, its green benefits fade. If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals. And recycling the battery can be a hazardous business. ... Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fumes.”

Morse reports that researchers are assessing the question of how the millions of EV batteries that are expected to be made over the next few decades are to be recycled. He quotes Dana Thompson, a research fellow at the University of Leicester in England, declaring that today’s EV batteries “are really not designed to be recycled.”

That doesn’t matter much when EVs are not in widespread use, but some carmakers have announced plans to phase out combustion engines within a few decades, Morse writes. He adds that some analysts predict “143 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, up from just 11 million last year.”

“People are starting to realize this is an issue,” Thompson told Morse.

D.R. (Dusty) Bahlman may be reached at notesandfootnotes39@gmail.com or 413-441-4278.