Category Archives: Education

Crape Myrtle

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!

Urban Living Hack, Part 1

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.

Trees as Individuals

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).

Robbed!

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.

Linden

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!

Photo credit: Donald Cameron

No surprise that American linden is also called bee tree.

Photo credit: Wayne Hinshaw

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:

Delta Park

I had a pleasant walk with the German shepherd this Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend: cool and quiet in Inman Park.

We walked past Delta Park, near the intersection of Edgewood and Euclid.

It made me think of something I read about years ago: a theory or model in environmental psychology. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

Continue reading Delta Park

White Wood Aster

I’m here to say that I planted this last fall, and now I’m in love. Eurybia divaricata, white wood aster.

More info from the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Eurybia divaricata is native to Eastern U.S. and typically grows in the wild in dry open woods. It grows in loose clumps with dark, sprawling, sometimes zigzag stems up to 2.5′ tall. Distinctive leaves are heart-shaped, stalked and coarsely toothed. Small but abundant flowers (to 1 inch across) have white rays and yellow to red center disks and appear in flat-topped, terminal clusters in late summer to early fall. Attractive to butterflies.

That’s it. That’s the post.

Credit: Anita Gould