Sunday, October 18, 2015

Negligent Elms

Weather: Tuesday, for the first time this season, the sun was in my eyes when I was sitting at my desk; since early morning low temperatures have fallen into the high 30s; last rain 10/5.

What’s blooming in the area: Datura, morning glories, Maximilian sunflowers, Sensation cosmos, African marigolds, zinnias.

Beyond the walls and fences: Áñil del muerto, broom senecio; empty white seed receptacles on composites catch the early morning light along the roads.

In my yard: Calamintha, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, sweet pea, Mexican hat, chocolate flower, blanket flower, coreopsis.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragon.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches.

The ground squirrel reestablished its barrier the day after I removed it. This time the row of cactus bits was reinforced with tops of purple coneflowers and pieces of tomatillo capsules. I removed it again, and again it laid its line of thorns.

Weekly update: Nothing signals neglect the way a field overrun by Siberian elms does.

When you drive the same roads day after day, you become familiar with passing yards. When one that’s flashed red roses and white roses of Sharon becomes hidden behind pigweeds and elms, you wonder if someone died, became ill or moved away. You never knew the owners, but you’ve miss their spirits anyway.

I’m often been puzzled why that particular tree has that emotional affect on me. It’s not just that it meets the technical definition of a weed and grows abundantly where it’s not wanted, though it certainly does that.

Every spring, the papery round seed cases are blown into my yard, where they settle in before they show they green heads. By the time I find them, their roots are several inches deep and can only be removed when the ground is thoroughly wet. If I cut them, they come back bushier than before.

Lots of plants do the same things, including the hollyhocks growing with the Ulmus pumila sprouts in my iris bed.

It’s what happens next. They become weedy, that is they outgrow themselves and become lanky, scrawny, gawky, gangly, rangy. The synonyms multiply.

When you look carefully, you see there are two traits that create this effect. The branches diverge widely from their trunks, and their leaves are small.

When they mature, there are enough branches to fill in the spaces, like the trees in the background of the above photograph. It’s their adolescence that’s distressing.

Compare them with the self-seeded fruit trees that bloom every spring.

If you look closely, you see the branches remain closer to their trunks. Their leaves are larger, and when they emerge, they give the trees the dense canopies we learn as children characterize shade trees. Their owners may not appreciate them, but I do.

1. Siberian elms in front of a local house.
2. The same area two years before.
3. Elm and hollyhock seedlings in my iris bed.
4. Two-year-old elm tree in my yard.
5. Self-seeded fruit trees in a local yard.
6. Another two-year-old elm next to a cherry tree.

7. Elms overrunning a local field. I imagine most of the mature trees in back are all elms, although the one with bare branches is a Russian olive.

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