Sunday 9 September 2007

One Mans Junk Another Mans Treasure

While traveling recently I was reflecting on people’s relationship with trees.

Quite often I will hear people describe this or that tree as a "junk tree".

It’s easy to attach labels to trees that for one reason or another have developed a bad reputation. Professional tree care people are often the worst culprits in this practice.

However one must proceed with caution, because as the title of this articles eludes "one mans junk is another mans treasure”.

In the Western Plains cottonwoods are revered as giants of the riparian forest. Riding along the banks of the Missouri river at the height of summer one can’t help but marvel at the majesty of these stately stands. Yet in the eastern parts of North America these very trees are ridiculed as being weedy, messy and totally undesirable. Similarly the box elder, also known as the Manitoba Maple is a very fast growing hardy tree that graces the yards and streets of many a prairie town. Again it is much maligned in the Midwest and New England.

It can be said that is that a weed is simply the wrong plant in the wrong place. This is true for trees as well. The Norway maple is fast growing and comes in varieties with beautiful burgundy foliage. This tree can become weedy and often escapes into the woods, successfully out competing native maples. There is some merit to calling invasive species less desirable or at the least not recommended for planting.

I have often considered many of the Asian elms to be in this category. In fact I once recommended the removal of one such tree to a client, due to its prolific seed production and numerous broken, decayed small branches over the patio in the court yard of the house.

“I would recommend taking this junk tree down, it will be nothing but trouble. “ I stated confidently to my client.

Listening closely to what he said provided an invaluable lesson. The potential client paused and then told me how he and his son had grown the tree from a small sapling in the woods to its present size. The tree had a very special sentimental value.

This illustrates how often, in Urban Forestry, you are dealing with the person’s feelings and emotions towards a tree and not just its botanical attributes. Junk or treasure, it is truly in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure many readers have similar stories. Please feel free to forward them to the address below. They may be featured in a future article. And I always like a good tree story.

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