So, yesterday I was walking northeast on the section of the Freedom Park Trail between North Highland Avenue and the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum/The Carter Center.
Years ago, we planted trees nearby, along what is now called John Lewis Freedom Parkway.
These are winged elms. “Winged” refers to the corky “wings” or ridges that can be found growing on opposite sides of the tree’s twigs and branches, particularly its younger branches:
(For this tree, by the way, the scientific name and the common name are a perfect match: Ulmus alata is literally “winged elm.” Contrast our water oak, Quercus nigra, which we should be calling “black oak,” I suppose. Except what we commonly call black oak has the botanical name Quercus velutina, literally “velvety oak,” referring to the fine hairs found on its buds and young leaves. What a nomenclatural mess!)
I saw that one of the winged elms along the parkway has split in two:
A while back, I posted some photos of how my American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is getting along with recovery from the wound I inflicted upon it.
I had decided that there was risk of included bark developing between an already large branch and the trunk of my beech tree, so with considerable ambivalence, I removed the branch. That left a large wound on the tree, which I understood would result in some rot within the trunk, but then again, trees can be wonderfully adept at compartmentalizing decay.
Here’s an illustration of the barrier zone that a tree can construct, via internal alterations in the chemistry of its cells, to wall off infection from otherwise healthy wood inside the tree:
What I have been watching on the exterior of my beech is the slow growth of what’s initially called callus tissue and later, as the callus becomes tougher and stronger, woundwood. The hope is that this continuing growth of woundwood will ultimately seal off the interior of the tree from further exposure to organisms that cause decay.
As you can see, the tree is making good progress. I’d tell you that I’m really proud of it, but then I don’t want to encourage any vanity in my beech. It’s already the queen of the backyard, and the red maples, tulip poplars, and pecans all know it.
We’re all familiar with the tree commonly known as crape or crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). It’s not native to Georgia, but given how many crape myrtles we see in Atlanta yards, sidewalk strips, and parking lots, you might have assumed it is. It came to us from China and Korea, first to Charleston in 1790 and then everywhere else.
I’m here today with a reminder: if you are responsible for one or more of these trees, there is no law that says you must “top” a crape myrtle. The reason some people cut back these trees is because they believe it’s a technique to get more blooms and larger blooms in the summer. The reason that others top these trees is because, well, everybody else is doing it.
You can google the phrase “crape murder” to read all the reasons why it’s not a good practice to decapitate trees, putting aside aesthetics.
A few years ago, the Natalie asked Tree Watch to plant some crape myrtles out in front of their lovely building on Waverly Way. Look how elegant they already are.
Earlier, I wrote that “there is no law that says you must ‘top’ a crape myrtle.” In fact, for what it’s worth, the City of Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance deems “topping” an illegal destruction of a tree, for which a fine may be imposed:
Topping, tipping, or any similar improper pruning practices will automatically be deemed as destruction of a tree.
So please pause a minute and consider whether you really want to chop your crape myrtle in two, especially the ones that are in the public right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street. Most varieties of crape myrtle (Tuscarora, Muskogee, Natchez, Sarah’s Favorite, etc.) do want to be trees, not shrubs. If you want a shrub, plant a shrub!
In modern lingo, a hack is a clever solution to a tricky problem. Here’s a tricky problem that city-dwelling tree enthusiasts face: finding good spots for shinrin-yoku, also known as forest bathing. Well, I’ve got a hack for you — just take a few tips from me!
Here are six of my not-so-secret spots and favorite locations in Atlanta to walk amid and below some trees. Yes, there are plenty of other places to bathe in an Atlanta forest, but for (1) health of the forest, (2) reasonable chance at a modicum of solitude, and (3) ease of access, I doubt you can do much better than these.
Click on any green tree icon to get more info, and continue to the next post.
Three white oaks (Quercus alba) — 1, 2, 3 — planted the exact same year at Poplar Circle. Autumnal red, brown, and tawny, respectively.
I’ve commented on this before: so often we tend to think of trees in the aggregate, for example, an entire species (all white oaks) or an entire forest (all trees in Fernbank Forest).
I enjoy taking note of an individual tree’s idiosyncrasies.
Individual trees tend to get noticed because they’re especially large or old. But every tree, not just a towering redwood or ancient bristlecone pine, has a unique story to tell, if we take time to listen (as it were).
This, I believe, is a carpenter bee (Xylocopa spp.), and I caught it collecting nectar from some salvia I have growing in my front yard (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’). It appears to be doing exactly what I find described by Steve Buchman of The Bee Works:
From time to time carpenter bees are quite ingenious in their foraging for nectar. On flowers such as salvias, penstemons, and other long, tubular flowers the carpenter bee, due to its large size, is unable to enter the flower opening. Instead they become nectar robbers. Using their mouthparts they cut a slit at the base of corolla and steal away with the nectar without having pollinated the flower.
I was walking through Freedom Park during this rainy September, and these leaves caught my eye. Aren’t they lovely?
The shape is “cordate,” related to such words as cardiac, concord, discord, accord, and cordial. In other words, these leaves are heart-shaped.
These are the leaves of a linden tree, and more exactly, of an American linden. The scientific name is Tilia americana. (There are some 45 species of lindens around the world. Inman Park has a second, European species, Tilia cordata or littleleaf linden, in front of 100 Waverly Way.)
It’s also called basswood, where the prefix bass- refers not to music or fish but to “bast.” Bast is the inner, fibrous bark of linden trees, which Native Americans made into twine. (At some point lind- became “lime” in British English, so if you read about “lime” trees lining some road in Europe, don’t be thinking about citrus trees.)
I love American linden. Here’s a large one in Freedom Park:
It’s native to our region. It grows fast. It can reach 100 feet or more. It can live for well over a century. It is easy to transplant. And it flowers!
No surprise that American linden is also called bee tree.
I also love this bit of knowledge from Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest:
“The design of each flower is such that the nectar produced on the inside of the sepal cannot be lost by rain or dew. This is because these flowers hang upside down and act like little umbrellas. The nectar, too, hangs in solution upside down. But the sepal produces a few fine hairs that, together with the physics of surface tension, are just enough force to hold the liquid in place without splashing down onto the grass underneath the tree.”
We’ve been planting more of these American lindens in Inman Park. Good for the pollinators, good for the neighborhood! Here’s one in the yard of Bill and Ann Moore: