We lost 23 trees last week. They were saplings, planted only months ago. They were yew pines, chinese fringes. Their holes were dug by more than one hundred volunteers and led by AmeriCorps members. They were bought with money provided by San Jose, by Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio. They were grown in our nursery, tended to by our volunteers, by school groups and dedicated AmeriCorps members. These trees took time, effort and cooperation to raise. They took money, community investment and muscle to put into the ground. They took dedication to tend on our weekly watering runs. In a way, these trees were representations of us, as a community. If they had been allowed to continue growing they would have provided shade, flowers and air-cleaning to a hot and busy street.
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The orchid family, Orchidaceae is enormous, containing 28,000 species. That’s just slightly more species than the population of Monterey, California. The species count does not include the 100,000 or so cultivars that have been bred by humans. California has only 31 native orchids (most of them live in the tropics). I didn’t realize that I had seen my first one.
A field of tomatoes wilts. A stand of tanoak trees dies. A forest of bay laurels and manzanita withers. An orchard of citrus yellows and decays. A wildland restoration project crumbles into dust. Potatoes turn rancid and spongy. These are the calling cards of Phytophthora, the destroyers of plants
Our City Forest is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating a green and healthy Silicon Valley by engaging the community in the protection, growth and maintenance of our urban ecosystem, with special focus on our urban forest.
We’re taking a breather on the Our City Forest blog, a breather from science and botany. It’s time for celebration. Arbor Day is tomorrow (as fellow tree nerds I’m sure you all have it marked on your calendars)! It’s a time to plant and care for trees!
In the United States, Arbor Day has been celebrated since 1872. It was the brainchild of pioneer, journalist and former Secretary of the Nebraska Territory, Julius Sterling Morton. Morton was fascinated with agriculture and trees in particular. On his estate, now the Arbor Lodge State Park, he cultivated 270 varieties of trees and shrubs including apple orchards, oaks, chestnuts and pines. Morton, using his extensive political and journalistic connections to promote Arbor Day as holiday of tree planting and care. It was a rolicking sucess, attracting thousands of participants across the young state of Nebraska, prizes were offered for the most trees planted by teams or couples. In all it is estimated that a million trees were planted on that day. The wild success of the project led to interstate and national adoption of Arbor Day as a holiday.
While Morton’s Arbor Day was the first of its kind in the United States it was not the first Arbor Day-type celebration ever held. It’s thought that the first Arbor Day celebration took place in the 1594 in the small Spanish village of Mondoñedo. The orchard of lime and chestnut trees has been continuously maintained until now. The Spanish also celebrated the first “modern” Arbor Day in 1805. In quaint, picturesque Villanueva de la Serra a local priest, Ramón Vacas Roxo, organized a village-wide tree planting festival. In the shadow of the Napoleonic Wars, the feasting and planting lasted three days. In three years the Spain would be invaded by Napoleon and the countryside torn apart in guerrilla warfare.
Both of these early Arbor Day celebrations can help us understand the purpose of planting trees. Arbor Day, unlike other holidays is not about remembering the past or a religious occasion, Arbor Day is about showing concern for the future. Trees are one of the few things that get bigger and better with age (wine and cheese notwithstanding). Trees grow for generations, providing shade, fruit, erosion control and habitat for many decades if not hundreds of years. Arbor Day, like Earth Day, is a celebration of the future, an act of hope and care in an uncertain world. In war-torn Spain the people of Villanueva continued to plant trees for the future. When Morton held his Arbor Day it was seven years after the Civil War. Over one third of eligible, Nebraskan fought for the Union. In both cases, whether under the shadow of imminent invasion or in the aftermath of war, the act of planting a tree was radically hopeful.
That hope is something we should keep in mind this Arbor Day. The environmental news might be grim. Politics might be a terrifying circus. War, terrorism, poverty and disease still cause millions of people harm. But we’re not in a Young Adult Dystopian Sci-Fi. We’re not trapped in The Sprawl. Skynet hasn’t gone active. This isn’t the Los Angeles of Bladerunner.
The world hasn’t ended.
For all our pessimistic fiction and real-world tragedy the world hasn’t ended yet. We have problems to face and fix. On Arbor Day let's engage in a radical act of hope. Let’s us all plant a tree for ourselves and for the people we hope to have follow us.
If you've enjoyed this or our other blog posts please consider donating to Our City Forest. If you agree with this post, we are having an Arbor Day Planting at Kelly Park. Everybody who volunteers with us gets a free tree from the Community Nursery. The nursery will be featuring face painting, games and other Arbor Day festivities.
‘Epiphyte’(“epi” = on top of; “phyte”= plant in Greek), is a fancy-sounding term for a plant that spends most or all of its life living on another plant, usually on a tree . You might think that an epiphyte is a parasitic plant, but it is not! These plants only use the tree as a support system and take no nutrients from the tree itself. They instead rely on rainwater to carry nutrients down tree bark or on collections of soil and detritus in the crotches of branches. Epiphytic plants are represented throughout the plant kingdom, including non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts, hornworts) and vascular plants (plants that can conduct water).
Incidentally, the Silicon Valley has seen some pretty significant storms (flawless segue). We’ve been flooded with calls about downed trees, bent trees and broken support stakes. Our inboxes doth overflow with cries for help from concerned residents. With this in mind here’s what you need to know to manage tree risk.
Hello internet! We’re taking a breather from botany this week and focusing on the practical. Today is January 29, 2016 and I bet you know what that means. No, not National Corn Chip Day, this blog is proudly independent of the corn chip cartels that seek to dominate this great nation. No, right now we’re at the height of the tree pruning season!
Hello Internet! I’m writing again for all of you curious tree people after the holidays. When last I left, you were in your living rooms examining your Christmas/non-denominational holiday trees as a guide for how tree anatomy works. Toward the end I pulled the rug out from under our tropical and sub-tropical readers when I revealed that palms aren’t actually true trees at all.
So now that we’ve sprinted through approximately 480 million years of evolution, going from Charophyte algae to bryophyte moss to primitive vascular Cooksonia to the first forests it’s time stop, breathe, and look around at the plants in our lives.