Green travelers

TWO new shoots have appeared at the base of a Swedish ivy cutting I rooted about seven months ago. I know what's coming: Its parent plant, up in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has taken over a table at the Door County Library. The plant pushed across the table in every direction; its branches tangled into a mat; it sent new shoots out at almost every intersection of leaf and stem. ''What a fine plant!'' I said to the librarian, and she, pleased, carefully cut off an inconspicuous end for me. Wrapped in a wet paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag, the new treasure rode with me south to face the winter in Milwaukee.

On my windowsill it joined a jungle of other wanderers - a Chinese evergreen from my mother, who had carried it from Detroit to California; ivies from friends; a coleus from another library; and other strays from other sources. All had first rooted in temporary homes chosen from my box of glass jars and bottles; then they graduated to real pots, with dirt. The plants were only apparently stationary, I knew. Actually they were en route, now rooting, sure to be re-routed. My sill was just a stopping place in the course of their ongoing migration.

Some snips from my burro's tail are waiting to be potted up and taken to Kim, a co-worker at the office. She is moving into her own apartment for the first time and needs plants. About 20 years ago, I too was plantless, having just made a long-distance move to Ohio. The burro's tail arrived later by mail, packed in sphagnum moss by a plant supplier in Maine. Then it was about two inches long. Now it has grown to two cascading clumps that can rival specimens in any botanical garden. Pieces of it followed friends as they moved around the country. Perhaps they in turn have passed other pieces on. Will Kim's plant, in 20 years, be huge and multiple? Will it have offspring around the country, or at least around Milwaukee?

The cat brushes by the dangling burro's tails, swishes her own tail, and leaves tumble down. I throw them back in the pot, to root and bud and ready themselves for other journeys.

My Door County plant, though firmly rooted and growing fast, is too small to clip. Still, it's bigger than it looks. It holds the promise of its parent: a vigor that will soon be manifest in a surge beyond the pot.

A network of relatives on the move - that's what my plants are part of. With unobtrusive persistence, they sprawl over tables, escape their containers, and send out offspring, with or without assistance. Some, by proxy, zoom off to Oregon or back to Maine.

There they grow, in a row on my windowsill. The sun streams in on them; they are reaching back, out. . . .

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