the curious case of the pepper-tree

It is late April; the pollen is supposed to recede, and I have about a month before the rainy season sets in. Thus it is time to ready my implements of destruction and violently attack the jungle that is my back yard before the storms set in and make everything grow six inches overnight.

The highest priority target is something I’ve been warring with for about a decade. There is, and always has been, a pepper tree in a most awkward spot in my garden: wedged into the twoish feet between the a/c heat pump and the wall of my home.

At least, I think it’s a pepper tree. Brazilian pepper, to be precise, a particularly nasty invasive wossit that’s been pollenating and poisonating its way all across Florida. These things are the cane toads of trees. My theory with my garden is “it’s better than sand,” unless it’s sandspurs, but this thing is in a bad spot and it needs to go.

I turned to the internet, and found that, short of Agent Orange and/or fire (I’m not joking about the fire, every guide says things like “If fire is not an option then the following labor-intensive methods can be used but success is not guaranteed” and then they’re going on about backhoes) the removal and eradication of pepper trees here is a Big Fucking Deal, and also a Big Fucking Problem. Errgh. Seriously, fire? Kill it with fire is the best option, in reality?

Here is some of what I found. A detailed how-to guide and explanation of a “pepper bust” (PDF) put out by the internet side of one of the local papers. It has a disclaimer in case of injury right at the front. That’s heartening. Next I located a website full of gardeners having a collective bitchfit about these damn trees. Not that I blame them. Because fuck pepper trees in the ear, especially when they are putting roots under your (vital in FLA) air conditioning apparatus.

The pepper bust printout has given me hope; there’s a method called “basal bark application” of herbicide that will eventually kill the thing off, leaving a dead stump and roots that won’t grow under the house and break the AC or eat my plumbing more. (I already have seventeen thousand a hell of a lot of native trees on my eighth of an acre and their roots eat pipes and fiber-optic wire.) So I can do that, I figure; I can use the hedge loppers to strip the thing down to its trunk, then cut slices into it with my machete and dribble Tree Poison into the cracks. I don’t much care if a dead woody stump is still there. It’s not like it can make a heat pump more unsightly.

But first I need to find and sharpen my machete, which came from the local army-navy surplus and has whacked more jungle than Indiana Jones. Maybe it’s under the gimpy glue cat. It’s not under the stupid boneless cat; she sleeps in trash bins. And it’s not under the dog, because usually I am. The point is, attacking the jungle with hedge loppers is no fun, but attacking it with a wicked two-foot blade is, and especially when you have overwrought nautical revenge songs stuck in your head to sing loudly while you defoliate, you gotta do it with style.