Dear Friends This week, before Spring Break, we are looking for baby spider plants for our Kinder kids. Do you have any to contribute? We need 40 or 50 more. Please bring your babies to me asap.
They cut down two large trees on my block this week. One was a dead ash tree, the other was a mature Norway maple that was leaning off center. They were two of the larger trees on the block. The trees that are left are now the largest trees. I think about this, and how we lost the 107 year old catalpa on Hutchinson, and the last giant elm, and the giant willow by the river, and the beloved American elm at the end of Cullom by the river. When a big tree goes down, the remaining smaller trees become the “big ” trees.
The elms, ash, the catalpas and willow are all fast growing trees, that were planted when this part of town was developed around 1910, when the North Shore Channel was dug. The trees that were originally here, that were part of the old ecology: the oaks, walnuts, and hickories, they were mostly cut down. A few miraculously remain. Four of them are at Waters school. Three others are on the parkways around the school. A few others are scattered around the neighborhood. These trees ARE OLD. They grow slower and live longer than the planted parkway trees. A willow and a bur oak with the same circumference will have vastly different ages. The giant willows at the river are at most, 110 years old. The oaks at Waters are 350+ years old. My neighbor applauded the cutting down of the maple and ash, and looks forward to the removal of a large backyard silver maple because it is “rotten”. We fear large trees close to our homes, and the fear of falling trees and limbs seems reasonable. But, as the fear grows the stature of our trees diminishes. The grandeur of our oaks, and the vase shaped reach of elms that once lined block creating a cathedral effect, are being replaced by lines of saplings, pruned to look like lollipops. Most will never reach maturity.
The weird thing is that, over time, we lose our sense of what a “tree” is. Unless we go to the Forest Preserve or National Park, our idea of what a “tree” is, moves toward the weird trees shown on architectural drawings: potted plants. I think that we need to revere our older trees and use our best forestry practices to keep them healthy, alive and large. Imagine a world without the redwoods. What a loss. What diminishment. Would you like to help save the heritage trees of our neighborhood: oak and elm, willow and hickory, cottonwood and walnut. They are our local treasure.