A Tree Fell in the City, and Many Heard Its Cry For Help

A Tree Fell in the City, and Many Heard Its Cry For Help

This of course is an opposite of the usual conundrum: “If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?”

The poor tree is a red ironbark Eucalyptus or mugga ironbark, who immigrated from Australia. They have a highly crenelated black bark, and ooze a red sap, which can be seen at their base. As much as I have learned to love trees, this is not one that you want to hug.

This tree fell in Laguna Beach, and the report and photo on this is in this week’s stunewslaguna.com . The row of these trees is on the North side of Broadway, next to the entrance of the Festival of Arts and the Pageant of the Masters. Everybody who goes to these venues either walks by this row, or passes next to it.

When the mugga fell, it wiped out a BMW parked alongside. It may have also damaged another BMW passing by. Nobody was reported hurt. At least it went out in style, calling for people to take notice.

Every time I pass these trees, I see the reason for the cry for help it gave us. The tree has lived its life imprisoned in a patch of exposed soil at most a few square feet surrounded by first sidewalk, then on its North side by a building, and it’s South side by Broadway street. I don’t know if it is regularly watered by the city.

The summer is dry as usual, with maybe only an occasional drizzle, or occasional fog. Laguna Beach downtown is a very gently sloping alluvial plane, carved into the hills by the Laguna Canyon drainage. The drainage canal is dry, and I suspect the underground draining water level is very low. We have had a few weeks of very high temperatures, and are having another week coming up.

UC Irvine has many of these beautiful blossoming trees on its botanical garden campus. Those are on an open hillside. I have many pictures of them on my Flicker account. I pass some more on my walk home from my office. Those are near a sidewalk, but surrounded by a bordering garden, which gets regularly watered by recycled water.

Many of the trees in downtown Laguna are similarly trapped in compact concrete prisons. This, although they have committed no crimes, but provided us shade and beauty for decades. And are also converting our greenhouse gas CO2 excretions to life sustaining Oxygen.

The cry for help from the red ironbark was for us to more appreciate our trees more in city planning, and to give them adequate natural space and watering to remain healthy. Confining trees with growing root systems is also expensive, as their growing roots undermine sidewalks and roads, which require occasional smoothing and repair.

As usual with the subjects on which I comment, I am not an expert on them. In this case, I am not an arborist or city planner. I would appreciate any comments emailed to me by those who know about this.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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