Our resort is located on Aruba’s Eagle Beach. At one end of the beach, in a sandy area atop a rocky outcropping next to the water, you will find a stand of the amazing Fofoti trees–which have to be among the coolest trees anywhere, as well as some of the most photographed.
The Fofoti trees are of the species Conocarpus erectus, and are also known as the buttonwood or button mangrove tree. But on Aruba, which is constantly swept by brisk trade winds, the Fofoti trees have a special characteristic: they have been twisted and shaped by the constant gusts. The trees have a deeply gnarled trunk and have been bent almost to the ground, and they always point to the southwest, which is the direction of the prevailing breeze. As trees go, the Fofoti are pretty amazing.
Yesterday was a cool, overcast morning in Columbus–another prime day for a romp in the Ohio woods. For our weekend hike, we decided to stay a bit closer to home, and took a short drive over to Blendon Woods Metro Park. The park is a popular one and very conveniently located in the northeast corner of Franklin County, just outside of I-270, the highway than encircles Columbus.
Blendon Woods is a big park–653 acres in all–with a number of trails, family and picnic areas, and the Walden Waterfowl Refuge, a 118-acre preserve in one corner of the park. We began our day with the trail to Thoreau Lake, which is part of the Walden Refuge. When you reach the lake, the trail ends in two viewing stations where you can watch the birds and waterfowl unobtrusively. We didn’t see any ducks or other waterfowl, but we did catch a good look at a colorful cardinal, shown above, who was munching on some seeds just over the squirrel guard in a bird house next to the viewing station.
The trail to the Walden Refuge is a paved trail, and there were a number of families and birders out for a walk in the cool air. The birders are easy to recognize, because they’ve all got their binoculars in hand, with cords looped around their necks, ready to focus in whenever they hear a bird call. It must have been good viewing conditions, with some trees largely stripped of leaves while others are still displaying their colors. The non-birders among us could just enjoy the remaining fall foliage.
The lake trail is a short one, so after our return from the Walden Waterfowl Refuge we crossed the parking lot and headed onto the Sugarbush Trail, a natural trail that winds through the woods and some marshy areas for two miles. The trail was matted with fallen leaves, and you had to watch your step to make sure that you didn’t get snagged by a stray tree root, but the woods were lovely, with lots of brilliant gold and yellow in the background to frame the trees in the foreground.
The Sugarbush Trail wasn’t quite as crowded as the lake trail, but we did see a few other walkers along the way. The trail is mostly level, with only a few easy hills. The woods were quiet and cool as we strolled along, and I once again thought I should learn more about how to distinguish between the different kinds of trees you typically find in the Ohio woods. I can identify a pine tree, a buckeye nut, and a maple leaf–thanks largely to seeing the maple leaf on the national flag of our neighbors to the north–but that’s about it. Otherwise, I can’t tell a walnut from a sycamore from an elm, and I suppose it’s about time I learned.
At one point on the Sugarbush Trail, the woods take a break, and there is a meadow area with a sprawling field of wildflowers. The plants had grown to about shoulder height, and if you stood on tiptoe you could just look over the plants to get the full effect of the field and a better sense of the size of the park. As we finished our hike, a few patches of blue showed up on the far horizon. With our appetites stimulated by the cool weather and the walking, it was time to leave Blendon Woods behind and head home to make some scrambled eggs, sausage, and strawberries for our Sunday brunch.
Our first home base in Sicily was the Barone di Villagrande Vineyard on one of the slopes of Mt. Etna. I loved everything about it and was sorry when we moved on yesterday. We had a beautiful and spacious room with a panoramic view of the terraced vineyards, the town below, and the sea beyond, which I’ve shown in some prior posts. The food and wine pairings were terrific, the staff members were uniformly attentive, friendly, and helpful, and the grounds had the distinctive touches that make a place live on in memory—like the majestic 139-year-old cypress tree, shown above, that towered over our outdoor balcony and the bottlebrush tree with its many buzzing bees and the old well, shown below, next to the patio seating area where we enjoyed wine and conversation with the Birdwatcher and Zippy the Insegnante. And the lawn beyond was an ideal place to sweat out the toxins when the Capo dei Capi put us through our yoga paces.
The acid test for any place is whether you would recommend it to friends and hope to return some day. The Barone di Villagrande Vineyard easily passes that test.
Trees are lovely things, as a general rule. But sometimes, in coastal communities, trees can really get in the way, and unhealthy trees also pose a risk of causing real damage to nearby houses during a severe storm. So it was with the trees on the hillside of our neighbor’s property, which made yesterday morning “tree removal time” on the Greenhead Peninsula.
Through the work of Melvin and his backhoe and his friend Steve and his chainsaw, we cut down and hauled away more than a half dozen trees of varying sizes, including a large diseased tree located right next to our house. My role was basically limited to lifting and bundling branches for later removal, and since I value my fingers I tried to stay as far away from the chainsaw as possible, just to be on the safe side. It’s amazing, though, what a chainsaw, a backhoe, and a few hours of hard work can accomplish. As a result of our efforts, we cleared much of the hillside, as our neighbor wanted, and we also gave Melvin and Janet a view of the harbor from their kitchen window, just like they had years ago, when there weren’t as many mature trees in the neighborhood.
As a result of the tree removal operation, the neighborhood looks a lot different. The south side of our house now has dramatically altered views and will be getting a lot more sunshine on clear, cloudless days. We can also see the huge rock formations on the hillside, which I like. Our work has also affected the view from our upper deck, as shown by the before (above) and after (below) photos with this post. And now I don’t have to worry about a sick tree toppling into the side of our house during the next nor’easter.
Yesterday we drove over to Crockett Cove for a tulip show. It’s one of the more remote, less populated parts of the island, covered with what looks like a primeval forest. To get to our destination we followed a narrow gravel road — just wide enough for our car, without much wiggle room to either side — that wound through the trees for miles. At one point we passed this sign, which gave us a chuckle. I found myself wondering if the red car displayed at the bottom of the tree trunk, where bark had been knocked or scraped off, was a testimonial to an actual fender bender in the past.
Who needs a posted speed limit when trees are going to be effective enforcers of careful driving?
We are enjoying the desert foliage in the Oro Valley area. One of our favorite plants is this green tree, which is found all over the region and seems to thrive in the arid, sunny conditions.
All trees are green, of course, but this tree takes green to an entirely new level, because even the trunk and bark is a fluorescent green, which looks even greener in the bright sunshine. It’s the kind of tree Dr. Seuss would love.
There’s a little crab apple tree in the side yard of our place in Stonington. I feel sorry for it. The tree seems to struggle and has never produced fruit or flowers during the time we’ve had the place. It has remained small and spindly despite my best efforts to help it grow. I’ve tried watering it liberally, and I’ve driven those tree fertilizer spikes into the area around the tree to try to give it nutrients. Unfortunately, it remains stunted. It may just be that the rocky soil isn’t good for a tree.
This year, a kind of white discoloration appeared on some of the leaves on the tree. In trying to figure out what it was, I learned something kind of cool about the University of Maine. The U of M Cooperative Extension offers the services of a plant disease diagnostic lab that will test any sample you send and let you know what the problem is. You just clip off some leaves that show the problem, put them in a plastic bag, give them your name and address and email information, and send the sample off to Orono, Maine for analysis.
We took advantage of the service to send in some clippings from the little tree for examination and testing. Yesterday we received a report from one of the scientists working at the lab — about a week after we sent it off. That’s pretty impressive, and much appreciated.
The news about our little tree was bad and good. The bad news is that the tree now has to deal with a fungal condition called venturia inequalis, which is commonly known as “apple scab.” It’s not exactly an attractive name, but then fungal conditions typically don’t get lyrical monikers. According to the report, “apple scab” is common on apple trees that have not been bred for resistance to the fungus — so now we know that the little tree lacks good breeding, in addition to its other issues. The good news is that the condition isn’t fatal, or even all that serious. The diagnostics lab scientist does not recommend fungicide, and simply recommends raking and disposing of the leaves after they drop from the tree this fall. And a University of Massachusetts website identified in the diagnostics report says we can hope that the tree will be better next spring.
So we’ve learned something neat about how the University of Maine serves the surrounding community, and confirmed that our little tree’s bout with “apple scab” means it has another challenge to contend with. And now we can only hope that the little tree, like everythingelse, will be better — much better — in 2021.
I admit that when spring-time comes — if it ever comes, that is — I’m a sucker for flowering trees. In this part of the country, that most likely means pear trees, bursting with delicate white flowers. In many suburban neighborhoods, landscapers have long been planting Bradford pear trees as ornamental touches, almost as a matter of course.
But is planting so many pear trees a good idea?
This guy is one of an increasing number of people who argue that it isn’t a good idea, and we’ve got to stop. He notes that while pear trees are very tempting when you’re trying to turn what used to be a farm field into something that looks more like an attractive neighborhood — because they grow incredibly quickly, and flower besides — they aren’t a viable long-term solutions for any yard. Bradford pears have one of the weakest branch structures of any tree, with a trunk that splits into a V, besides. The trees grow like Topsy, to be sure, but ultimately a strong storm will come along and the trees will break apart. That’s exactly what happened to the pear trees in our old house in New Albany. We were just lucky that the limbs crashed into the yard, rather than knocking down part of the house.
But apparently there’s more to it than just having to cut down a split tree and figure out what to do with the stump. Bradford pears were supposed to be sterile, but they actually aren’t. They’ve cross-pollinated with other varieties of pear trees, apparently causing a proliferation of pears in some neighborhoods — and, in so doing, they are crowding out other, native trees that might not have those fine blossoms, but are sturdier are more suited to the environment. Even worse, some of the pears being produced as a result of the cross-pollination are thorny monstrosities that are almost impossible to get rid of. That’s why Ohio has put Bradford pears on the list of invasive species that can’t be sold in the Buckeye State.
So if you’re going to do some landscaping, consider whether you really want to plant that Bradford pear, or for that matter any ornamental pear tree. It turns out that those white flowers come at too high a price.
When we moved in to our house we had our back yard landscaped. Kish hates direct sunlight, so a key element of the design was a new tree planted at one corner of the patio. It was supposed to grow tall, leaf out, and provide lots of the glorious shade that Kish likes so well.
For the first year and a half, things went according to plan. The tree grew like crazy and looked to be doing fine. Then late last summer, the tree started to visibly struggle. Beginning at the top of the tree, the leaves wilted and died. We hoped that the tree would recover this spring, but the top half remained dead and the only new leaves appeared at the base of the tree trunk. As a last-ditch salvage effort, the landscapers cut off the dead top part of the tree — leaving us with the pathetic looking elongated stump shown above — in hopes it would spur new growth at the bottom of the tree. Unfortunately, that effort also failed. Our little tree has given up the ghost.
I like trees. I hate to see them struggle and I hate to see them die. This tree death is particularly weird because there’s no apparent cause. It wasn’t struck by lightning, and every other plant and shrub in our back yard is thriving. I guess sometimes death just happens.
The fine Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, teaches that beauty can be found just about anywhere — in skyscrapers, in flowers, in barns, in the rugged landscape of New Mexico . . . and in trees. So when I left the museum and saw this tree framed against the adobe walls of the museum, with the sunshine etching an intricate shadow on the wall, I had to let my inner O’Keeffe snap this photo.
I freely confess it: I am a big fan of trees. I’m not sure exactly why, but there is something about them that is deeply, intuitively appealing. Some deeply ingrained, inherited memory from our distant, arboreal past, perhaps?
And when I run across a truly great tree — like this one found at one corner of Schiller Park — I can’t help but stand in mute admiration, taking in the leafy canopy, the stout trunk, and particularly the powerful and graceful arc of one impossibly long limb stretching out to shade the grass beneath. It’s the kind of tree you could sit beneath on a warm summer’s day and happily study on a daydreamy afternoon.
Lately they’ve been taking down trees along the Yantis Loop and Route 62. It’s a sad occasion for the walkers, cyclists, and joggers who use the path.
For the most part, the now-missing trees weren’t the kind of beautiful, spreading trees about which Joyce Kilmer might wax rhapsodic. Instead, many were what Kish would call “field trees” — the kind of scrawny trees that farmers might use to visibly mark the boundaries between one field and another. Still, they provided some shade, protection from the elements, screening from the roadway and the noise of passing cars, and the sense that you were walking through a rustling tunnel of green leafiness.
Now they are gone, and there are just sorry, straw-covered spots on the ground where the trees once stood. As I said, it’s a sad occasion.
When we moved to New Albany in 1996, we planted a small pine tree in our back yard. At that time, our neighborhood was basically a bare expanse with some houses here and there, and the little conifer was part of an effort to add some texture and definition to our neck of North of Woods.
Every year since then, without fail, the little pine tree has grown a few feet. Now it is a little tree no longer. I’m not sure exactly how tall it has grown — 40 feet? 50 feet? — but it is the tallest tree in the ‘hood, and towers over our back yard. It’s hard to believe it once was little, but time has a way of having that kind of effect on things.
It works with birthdays, too — you remember the little sapling, and the next thing you know it is fully developed, mature, and holding its own in the forest of life.