Musings of a Tree-Hugger

The oak trees are glowing again, with that green-brown-yellow moss that spreads itself in clumps all throughout their twisted branches. I love this time of year for many reasons, mainly because of the rains that restore the moss to verdant health. These are scrub oaks (Quercus agricifolia) and are native on the central coast of California. John Muir waxes rhapsodic about them in Mountains of California (really, he gets a bit silly), and much has been done to protect them from development and disease, the recent killer being Sudden Oak Death, a form of phytopthera, of potato famine fame.
Form vs. Function
This morning B and I are doing our part on our little parcel of land, yes, I've dragged him out for a bit of dirty fun in the garden. The hillside on the side of our property boasts several trees, redwood, scrub oak, elder, Ponderosa Pine and dogwood. These tree's understory plantings are diverse, as fits each tree-rhodies, azaleas and camelia beneath the redwood, and the nascent plantings (one or two seasons old) of California native drought-tolerant shrubs (salvias) and groundcovers (ceanothus) beneath the oak. The native scrub oak needs completely dry soil in the summer, it's roots are highly susceptible to root fungus, which grows in warm wet soil. So, the plants surrounding the oak need to follow suit. Directly beneath the oak, however, is a good bit of shade, and finding plants for dry shade is the classic gardener's conundrum. We refuse to go the route of many of our neighbors, who have definitely chosen function over form by planting copious amounts of ivy & vinca beneath their trees. Yech. Instead, we have salvaged two beat-up (ahem)-rustic-wood chairs, which rest at a precarious angle beneath the oak, ready for hailing traffic and passers-by, and for giving the squirrels something to chase each other around. Hopefully someday soon we will figure out how to grade the hillside so that the chairs sit a little less precariously, and can hold more than squirrel weight without tipping forward.
"My name is the Lorax, and I speak for the trees....."
Our friend Matt was recently regaling us with tales from his own crusade to save some neighborhood scrub oaks, only his story has gotten a little more press. Read a bit about it here.
The diversity of groups that are involved in protesting the University of California, Berkeley's decision to cut down a grove (92 trees) of native scrub oaks in order to build an athletic facility is fascinating: I originally thought that it was the usual assortment of crunchy Earth-First-ers ("Level 5 vegans who don't eat anything that cast a shadow"-one of my favorite Simpsons lines), but the 3 lawsuits that have been filed against the University are backed by such unlikely bedfellows as the Panoramic Hill Association (rich Berkeley-ites who don't want their views obstructed), the City of Berkely, and a Native American group, who claim that the grove of trees is actually an Ohlone burial ground. Since a number of bodies were uncovered when the neighboring football stadium was built (Go, Cal!), it's pretty likely. So, it's the longest urban tree-sit ever, it's been going on for over a year now, and who knows how it will end.
Our friend Matt thinks it will most likely end in what he called an 'extraction'; UC Berkeley going in and (violently) removing the tree-sitters from the trees;it all sounds grisly and a very unpleasant way to have to descend from tree to earth. I will be sorry to see the UC system flex it's muscle yet again, sorrier still to lose such a stand of oaks, and the sorriest that people will get hurt trying to save them. I don't know what a good solution is, and I just feel sick about the whole thing.

1 comment:

David Green said...

As someone who cares deeply about the environment, I am saddened and disgusted by the actions of the tree-sitters. The tree-sitters are wasting precious resources to achieve an end that is dubious at best, even from an environmental perspective. We can do better -- read more here.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.