What is the worth of a single tree?
When I saw this on the list, I had a number of trees in mind all of which would have produced a comfortable feeling image. But then I went to DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, FL. I was presented with the question “What is the worth of a single tree?” It is not that someone asked me that question, but it was what came to mind when I became a witness to the large tree as you enter the park heading towards the visitor center. Here stands a Gumbo Limbo tree that is somewhere between 80 to 100 years old and is in crisis. This tree is majestic. It is being attacked by a fungus called Ganoderma which is essentially rotting the tree from the inside out. The disease is blocking the nutrients from the soil to reaching the tree. The National Park Service has been doing treatments and is trying save the tree for as long as it can, but the disease is incurable and it will die eventually, which will be a great loss to the park and to each of us. The park has had to put up ropes to keep people from climbing on its limbs and pulling at the leaves. Even with the signs stating the tree is in crisis, people continue to treat the tree with little respect. The tree is on the National Registry of Big Trees as the largest in the United States.
This type of tree has had many uses from tea, incense, pirates used for marking where loot was buried, sap used to catch birds and treat gout. The wood is soft and easy to carve and has been used for carousel horses. It is quick growing and can be started by seed or in the Caribbean it has been started by sticking branches into the soil to create living fences. It is wind tolerant and can withstand hurricane winds as well as being salt tolerant. It just cannot take the cold, so the Manatee River is as far north as it can go. It has been called the tourist tree because the bark turns red in the sun and peels back – looking like sunburned skin. Here is a tree that has endured countless storms, and numerous people and yet continues to provide shade, oxygen, nesting material for birds and is magnificent to look upon. The branches long with not all covered in leaves any longer and now in need of support. Just look at the twisting and reaching branches of this wondrous tree.
A little about DeSoto National Memorial. The park commemorates the 1539 landing of Hernando DeSoto with 600 soldiers, 220 horses, pigs, war dogs, cannons, muskets and other supplies on nine ships. This landing marks the beginning of his 4000 mile expedition on behalf of King Charles V through the southern United States in which they traveled from one village to the next taking the food and enslaving the native people as they searched for gold. A large number of lives were lost because of this expedition. The park has a visitor center and a replica of a Spanish camp, as well as a nature trail. The park has a number of activities during the year, including kayak tours (they provide everything you need) from about May to November. In April, they reenact DeSoto’s landing – Check the park website for the exact date.
Check out this park and the Gumbo Limbo tree before a storm or the disease takes it from us.
So I ask you – what is the worth of a single tree?