Anyone who has ever bushwacked through the forest in the VI or, especially, had anything to do with land which has been cleared of trees, is probably well familiar with kasha, also known as catch n keep. Acacia riparia is a woody sprawler with lacy foliage that not only snags anything that comes its way (catch) but grips you even closer the more you struggle to become de-tangled from its embrace (keep). According to the Crucian Dictionary, catch n keep (also ‘ketch an keep’) is also sometimes called the Country Policeman or Hug Me Close, and that it is known as Zarza in Puerto Rico and Amourette, which means little love, in St Barts.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘lovey’ names — this is not a plant to mess about with. It’s easy to imagine dire consequences if young children or small, furry animals were to find themselves entangled, and kasha is one reason anyone planning go off-trail in the Virgin Islands would be wise to wear long sleeves and pants — it’s bad enough when it gets its teeth in your clothes but skin is another thing all together. (In researching this post I came across a vacation villa on St John called Catch n’ Keep which is clever but also evidence that St John doesn’t need any more villas — what would they be called?)
So does catch n keep have anything going for it? Well, actually it does. Every summer kasha blooms — small fuzzy knots of white appear at the end of new growth, attracting bees and butterflies. It’s not spectacular, but it is pretty, and I love to look out over the hillside facing our house and see patches of white, a bit like spots of icing, which reveal the locations of catch n keep in our immediate neighborhood.
I wish we had successfully eradicated kasha from our own property, but we haven’t — it was here before us after all, and probably will be here when we’re gone. So in the spirit of acceptance I take pleasure in appreciating the plant’s annual display of beauty. I see it as a lesson that we can’t all be birds of paradise but that doesn’t mean we are not beautiful. And of course it’s also a reminder that it is just about time to get out the machete and the heavy-duty coveralls and give it our resident kasha plant its annual buzz cut.