In his classic book Mormon Country, author Wallace Stegner noted that nineteenth century Mormons planted rows of Lombardy poplar trees wherever they established settlements in the territory that is now Utah. The trees served as windbreaks and boundary markers, but they were also the flags that marked the advance of Mormon civilization in a hostile territory. In my hometown and lots of other towns all over the United States elm trees served a similar function, marking the spread of middle class residential neighborhoods during the end of the nineteenth and the first third of the twentieth centuries. In the 1960’s almost all of those tall elegant trees fell prey to Dutch Elm Disease, making each municipality a little poorer.
I was thinking about trees and what the planting of specific trees says about a society last week when a municipal truck plopped a locust sapling on my neighbor’s front strip. This tree and dozens of its siblings are being planted all over town in an effort by municipal government to replace some of the aged hardwood trees that have been dispatched by storms, disease or simple old age over the past few years.
The trees that have gone were mature oaks, sycamores, beeches and a few straight statuesque tulip trees. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to replace them with a tree as prosaic as the locust. Still, since few homeowners plant anything other than the occasional dogwood, magnolia or crabapple, it is a good thing that the municipality has decided to invest in some kind of street trees. Otherwise, our successors in this town and many others may well fry later on in the century.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with small ornamental flowering trees. They are inspiring additions to the landscape and provideRead more on backyardgardener.com