On a walk through Gowanus yesterday, at Union St. and 4th Ave., I was attracted by this monster of a weed because of its billowing, large shape and its adjacency to two other interesting things: a billboard and a vacant lot.
As I got a bit closer, I realized I’d seen this plant before growing out of cracks in the pavement in front yards (as well as at the base of the drainpipe tree). It’s got huge, broad, flat leaves, very thick stems, and I’ve usually seen it about 4-5 feet high. But this one had grown into a tree! Must have been about 20 feet high and its trunk and branches covered in thick bark.
But as I got even closer and peeked through the dense leaves, I saw that the “tree” emerged from the ground in between two back-to-back fences and that its trunk had actually grown right through one of them!
It was difficult to take a picture that would illustrate this perfectly. In the above photo (middle-right), you can see the spot where the trunk emerges on one side of the fence – the brown bark forms a lip at the point of exit.
Here’s another view. You can also see a few young stems nonchalantly poking through the fence.
I kept looking and looking to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing! How in the world did the trunk grow that wide around without being throttled by the fence? Is the trunk really only as wide as one measly link-space at the point of passage through the fence? (And how does this affect the strength of the trunk, or the passage of nutrients?) Or is there some way that the trunk could have fused with itself around multiple links?
I am also stumped as to what kind of plant this is. Any ideas, folks?