David Lusk, guest columnist, shares lessons from a forbidden tree - Winston-Salem Journal: Opinion

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David Lusk, guest columnist, shares lessons from a forbidden tree

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Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 12:00 am

Throughout our city is a well-known, controversial, once popular but poorly understood tree. Loved by some, frowned upon by others, there has never been a more puzzling, enigmatic tree. How could a tree that once held so much promise as an all-purpose, compact, flowering, amenity tree fall so quickly out of favor? In the grand scheme of things, why does the story of a small tree that is gradually being removed from the urban palette even matter? This article focuses on the implications of a polarity of forces, working for and against a community's trees; on the consequences of forcing nature to comply with the needs of a growing city, rather than a city that complies to the needs of nature; and of how a forbidden tree can serve to teach us that nature is the wiser, more consummate teacher of beauty and sustainability.

Planted extensively in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bradford pear tree became a dominant feature in many subdivisions, on commercial properties and in parking lots. There has locally never been a more wildly popular landscape ornamental, amenity tree. The Bradford pear tree grows amazingly fast, yet symmetrical, with showy white flowers in the spring and, like fast food for the landscape, satisfies the desire for quick, pleasing, lush landscapes. Initially, they helped sell houses and decorated business properties, parking lots and downtown sidewalks. Although we have lost many of our native trees in the process of urban expansion, the Bradford pear quickly filled our need for fast-growing and affordable landscape trees that did not get too big and take up too much of the space that the larger, more majestic native oaks, hickories, maples and pines demand of us.

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