Sunday, November 06, 2005

So long, good old tree

The live oak that shaded our kitchen window lies in pieces now behind our townhouse -- one of hundreds, maybe thousands of South Florida shade trees ruined by Hurricane Wilma or scarred by the storm and sacrificed by their owners.

At first we thought to save our tree: prune the broken top, hire a crane and set the tree back in its hole. We'd deepen the hole, help the roots reach deeper so they'd hold on tighter against the next storm.

Then we noticed how the roots had grown within inches of our sewer drain. Another year or two and the pipes would have been broken, maybe jammed with roots. Our loss of a tree revealed how close we'd come to a costly excavation.

So we sacrificed a tree that might have been saved. It is sad to lose the shade, and we will pay more in electricity come the next warm months unless we find another way to shade the three windows on our southwest side.

All around us for the past two weeks, people have been cutting trees. Some needed to come down, but many did not. It's a huge loss to the metropolis, this decimation of the tree canopy. In our block of townhouses, the condo officers talk of replacing the leafy trees with palms. I cringe at the thought. No leaves to rake, of course, but heavy fronds will drop at any time with no respect to who or what stands below. Give me a tree with leaves every time, leaves for shade in this sunny clime, branches where songbirds nest and squirrels play, leaves green and refreshing as they whisper in the breeze. The poet's tree, that thing unmatched by verse for loveliness, must surely have been not a palm but oak or maple, ash or poplar, gum or sourwood -- a tree, I'm sure, native to its place.

Want to do right by your new tree?
From the University of Florida, here are tips on selecting a tree and putting it into the ground so it will grow strong and healthy. Planting trees in urban landscapes

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