Yes, I proudly admit that I’m a tree hugger. And, the harder it is to wrap my arms around a tree the better I like it. I realize change is a constant, but somethings are moving so rapidly that this hand grenade of a heart of mine …sometimes feels like exploding.
You may not remember the chestnut trees, but I do. Once they were the dominant tree of the eastern forests. They had really wonderful leaves and their nuts provided food for all kinds of animals. Now they are all gone. Today’s trees at the Falls of the Ohio are a little removed from what was first recorded here. Now, we feel somewhat secure in the knowledge that what we have is what we have. It’s always going to be there for us…but big changes are walking the land.
I’m out here by the river all the time. It’s around the edges, the interstitial zones, where changes can be seen most noticeably. The weather and climate of the last two years have been especially hard on our trees. Paradoxically, we have had spells where we had too much rain at one time, and then not enough. Those gentle rain showers also seem to becoming a thing of the past. Today’s storms are more fierce with energy.
Last year’s wind storm from Hurricane Ike was an eye-opener! With gusts clocked at over 70 plus miles per hour, the wind clothes-lined our trees. Some snapped in half at mid-trunk. Others fell over exposing their root masses when their leaves and canopies provided too much resistance. The ice storm that followed in winter didn’t help matters any. Already it’s considered the worst natural disaster to hit Kentucky in modern times.
Why are we in such a big hurry to go nowhere? Is it we just can’t help ourselves? Already we are introducing exotic pests and diseases that are destroying our indigenous heritage. Ever heard of “bacterial leaf scorch” or the Emerald Ash Borer? Succession will occur sooner than later because our trees are already in a weakened condition. Every time the water gets high, the Ohio River deposits its washed away trees here.
At the Falls…I can see the maple trees waiting in the wings along with trees introduced from other countries. I don’t know what we can do about all that’s already put into play. Perhaps we can try living more simply and do our part to reduce the causes of climate change? When we travel, be vigilant about unseen invasive pest hitchhikers. For now, I’m going to say goodbye to an old friend. I’ve enjoyed the shade of this cottonwood tree for many years. Treasure the big trees and keep them growing!