Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Switch Bushes

There is a certain wild (not neccessarily native, but certainly not cultivated deliberately) shrub that my parents only taught me to call a "switch bush". Because it was the most common source of "switches" used to whip wayward children in bygone days.

What is the "real" name of this plant? It is rampant around here. If left untended, it tends to bend over almost to the ground, making sort of an arch. I've seen them get 6 or 8 feet tall, but most are smaller. It is woody, with long bendy branches up to a couple of inches thick, but usually much less than one inch thick. (the switches!) Small green leaves. No thorns of any kind.

It has a large number of tiny white flowers that positively fill the air with their smell at this time of year. It can be overpowering at times. On a hot day the smell combined with the heat can almost make you faint. I imagine that back in even more bygone days, the ladies would get the vapors and swoon from being around these things.

Not sure about fruit, as I only tend to notice the plants while they are flowering. Only this spring did I get interested enough in them to pay attention to what they looked like.

One of my favorite pleasures is driving around Atlanta with the windows rolled down during as many seasons and types of weather as I can possibly stand. From early spring through summer, there is a clear progression of floral smells: first wisteria, then honeysuckle, then switch bush. They are almost always noticeable over the car exhaust and other freeway smells on the Northeast Expressway I-85. In fact I don't associate *my* Northeast Expressway with smoke and smog and burnt rubber at all -- I associate it with the smell of wisteria, honeysuckle, and switch bushes. I want to write a poem about it but it's been so long since I wrote poetry that I'm not sure how to start. Blogging is poetry now, I guess.