Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson

The trouble with trees (and every other living thing) is that some of them have had to evolve defenses. Some of them are obvious about it, practically shrieking, “I’ll cut/puncture/poison/stickify you! STAY AWAY FROM MEEEE!!!!” Some are subtle and devious jerks, drawing you in by seeming all tame and pretty, then giving you a stealthy stab.

Such is this beauty, which attacked our own RowanVT, and whom she has dubbed Bitey McBiterson, which is the best name for a bush ever:

Image shows a verdant green bush with yellow flowers. It's very fluffy.
Bitey McBiterson I

You’ll have to ask RowanVT where this was. All I know is that it was June, and she was camping…. somewhere. Somewhere that had many interesting and beautiful things, which she sent to us, and one evil bushy tree, which was actually quite pretty.

Bitey McBiterson II
Bitey McBiterson II

Oh, dear, a philosophical mood has suddenly struck… but this is always how I’ve found evil to be most interesting. A lot of our stories and entertainment make evil ugly. Hairy, lumpy, slavering monsters; a devil with cloven hooves and misshapen features; wicked witches with warts. And yet, evil is often at its most compelling and most disturbing when it’s beautiful.

Another image of a flower, this one showing a red-orange streak to some of the petals.
Bitey McBiterson III

One of the most important lessons I ever learned was that evil doesn’t always come in bad packaging. It’s still hard sometimes to think of anything attractive – whether that’s a person, plant, or other entity – as being bad or dangerous. And that’s as true for non-physical qualities as it is for physical beauty.

Image shows the leaves, which are thick, green, and look somewhat like oak.
Bitey McBiterson IV

But I’m learning, as time goes on, to look at the total package, rather than just the dazzling bits. And I’ve learnt that there’s a lot more to beauty than the wrapper.

I’ve also learnt that plants trying to defend themselves aren’t, in fact, evil – although they sometimes seem so to those of us who are nursing wounds from things like Bitey.

Image shows the fruit, which is a little yellow lump all covered in tawny fuzz. It looks perfectly harmless.
Bitey McBiterson V

Not that it isn’t fun to jokingly attribute human qualities, such as a capacity for deception, to said plants.

Here endeth the philosophy. Here is RowanVT’s description of her encounter, and an invitation to identify this nippy little tree:

The tree with the yellow flowers, which I’m sure is non-native, bit the hell out of me when I gently touched its fruit. Those hairs are barbed and come off reeeeeal easy. >_< It is not a nice tree/bush/thing. Hopefully someday I’ll figure out what Bitey McBiterson is.

Hopefully, someday is today.

Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson

6 thoughts on “Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson

  1. 3

    GLEE! That’s it exactly! This was at Sunset Beach State Park in California. Wow. Amazing to think that thing’s actually a Cali native. Not a nice one though. :P

  2. 4

    Definitely California Flannel Bush. My California garden guide only mentions the McBitey aspect as a small aside at the end of the article, recommending “careful placement” and wearing long sleeved garments while handling.

  3. 6

    Yeah, this is why I tend to eat animals. Animals can run away, claw, and bite. Plants can’t really do that (aside from some industrious types that have managed to master sedentary clawing via thorns and pokey-leaves(I’m thinking of you, juvenile joshua trees…)).

    So instead, plants just sit around, soaking up sunlight, and churning out poison in case anyone eats them.

    Fuck plants, they’re… different or something…

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