The Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree has done well since it was installed precisely a year ago, on the second of May of 2020, which was the third anniversary of the passing of Steven Michael Ralls.
Although it was installed after the primary rainy season, it enjoyed a few late rain showers prior to requiring supplemental irrigation through summer. It was occasionally given a bit of fertilizer to help it get established. Staking was not necessary.
The young tree may not seem to be much larger now than it was a year ago, but has undoubtedly dispersed roots sufficiently to survive without supplemental irrigation. It may receive a few more doses of fertilizer in conjunction with occasional supplemental irrigation, just to accelerate growth while it is still young and vulnerable, but should not get so much that it becomes reliant on such intervention.
Now that the tree is established and ready to grow more than it did last year, adjacent and freshly foliated box elders will be pruned or felled to allow more sunlight through. More box elders and other nearby small trees will be subordinated and felled to accommodate growth in the future.
The Steven Michael Ralls was the first of a row of trees that were installed to partially obscure the view of an industrial building from an adjacent roadway. Five Arizona cypress, two deodar cedars and a coast live oak were added last autumn to disperse roots through winter. Five other deodar cedars were installed nearby to partially obscure another view. All are also doing well now that the weather is warming. Since they were installed prior to the rainy season, they likewise should not require supplemental irrigation, even if they might get a bit.
The Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park was not expected to survive damage inflicted by a vandal last June. However, it recovered with unexpected efficiency and vigor, at a time of year when growth should have been decelerating prior to autumn. It is as if the vandalism never happened.
After unsuccessfully attempting to poison the Memorial Tree with salt, the vandal sliced more than half way through the trunk in three places. The worst of these three slices is nearly healed. Another has already healed over. The third is so efficiently healed that the scar is barely visible.
A gardener who maintains Felton Covered Bridge Park installed a cage of chicken wire around the lower portion of the trunk to hopefully dissuade the vandal from attacking the Memorial Tree again. The trunk is sturdier and would be more resilient to such vandalism than it was last June.
Prior to the vandalism, the Memorial Tree had grown vigorously through spring, and was already decelerating its growth for summer, as is normal for the species within a natural habitat. By late summer, it would have been expected to concentrate resources into dormant terminal buds prior to defoliation through autumn and dormancy through winter.
Instead, the Memorial Tree responded to the vascular distress associated with the vandalism by suddenly and unexpectedly accelerating vigorous vegetative growth until it was compelled to decelerate by cooling autumn weather. Instead of producing such growth below the damage, as is typical, the determined little Memorial Tree expanded its developing upper canopy.
The Memorial Tree has recovered so efficiently that it will likely require only minor grooming while dormant through winter, to remove a few overly vigorous stems from the lower canopy. Minor stubble remains to promote trunk caliper development. The trunk may no longer need binding. The stabilizing lodgepole should remain for at least next year, even if it is unnecessary.
Members of the Community offered to replace the Memorial Tree after it was vandalized and not expected to survive. Fortunately, replacement will not be necessary. This little Memorial Tree has survived other forms of damage, and is determined to continue to survive and flourish.
This would have been an ideal time for a seasonal update on the little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Until recently, it had been healthier and growing more vigorously than it had since it was installed a few years ago. It had survived major accidental damage, and was just beginning to thrive. Sadly though, it was so severely vandalized that recovery is unlikely.
About a month ago, someone was seen briefly rummaging about the base of the tree, as if retrieving something that was dropped. Upon closer inspection, the observer noticed what seemed to be some sort of fertilizer, which was not considered to be a problem. A few days later, someone else recognized it as common salt, which is toxic to young plants, and promptly removed it.
Last Wednesday, the Memorial Tree was observed to be askew and separated from its supportive stake, which seemed to be the sort of minor damage incurred by something as simple as a dog getting its leash tangled with it. However, as the tree was straightened and staked, three fresh saw cuts were observed in the trunk. Each cut severed the trunk about half way through.
A vandal is intent on depriving the Community of this Memorial Tree. That is what vandals do. They destroy assets, which are very commonly assets of Society. Of all the Memorial Trees in Felton Covered Bridge Park, this specific vandal specifically targeted the Memorial Tree that was contributed to Society by the Homeless of Felton, who innately have the least to contribute.
We will consult with the Santa Cruz County Parks Department this week about the future of this Memorial Tree or its potential replacement. However, the next Memorial Tree will likely be a Memorial Grove of several coast live oaks, perhaps with cedars to the east and west, in a less accessible but very visually prominent location near the western end of Mount Hermon Road.
Steven Michel Ralls was memorialized by the installation of his own Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree this morning on the third anniversary of his passing. Several circumstances coincided to make this event not only possible, but righteously appropriate, much like the original Memorial Tree that replaced a conspicuously missing oak in Felton Covered Bridge Park.
This little Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, grew from seed into a situation where it could not stay. Initially, there was no place to relocate it to, since it will eventually get too big and too shady for most landscapes. Ironically, these disadvantages are attributes where it is now situated, at the end of where a row of other cypress will be installed to obscure unappealing scenery.
The location is perfect! It is offset from the adjoining straight row of five Arizona cypress, where it can get bigger and broader than the others, as it naturally does. A larger and bulkier tree is preferred there to compensate for a slightly lower elevation. What is even more ideal about the location is that it is precisely where Steven Michael Ralls camped while homeless late in 2012.
Steven Michael Ralls did not live there for long, before relocating to comfortable homes in Murphys, and ultimately Aptos. The site has change significantly since then. The upper portion has been buried by excavation for the expansion of the adjacent utility yard that the cypress are intended to obscure. A perimeter fence was installed around the yard. Vegetation is diminished.
It was gratifying to install the new Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree this morning. It will need to be irrigated occasionally by bucket through summer, but will need nothing after the rain starts next autumn. It knows how to grow up fast to become a big and prominent asset to the forest.
Felton will be getting another Memorial Tree next Saturday. Unlike our small Memorial Tree valley oak in Felton Covered Bridge Park, which is a Memorial Tree of several people, among several other Memorial Tree redwoods, this new Memorial Tree will be for a specific person, in a specific locale. It will be planted on May 2, which is the anniversary of the deceased’s death.
The little tree is a Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, that grew from a self sown seed too close to a building, and within a landscape that it could not have stayed in. When pulled out of the ground last autumn, it came up with an intact root system. It was too exemplary of a specimen to discard. It instead got canned, recovered through winter, and is now starting to grow.
Monterey cypress is endemic to a very confined range on the coast of Monterey County, between Point Cypress and Pescadero Point, and on Point Lobos. However, it is naturalized where it had been planted locally, which is why this particular specimen grew where it could not stay. It should be happy where it will be planted, and has plenty of space to grow as big as it wants to.
Ideally, this little tree should have been planted directly into the new location immediately after it was removed from its original location. It could have settled in through winter, to be ready to resume growth now. Since it is instead being planted now, it will need to be watered occasionally until rain resumes next autumn. Once established, it will need no supplemental irrigation.
Although not horticulturally ideal, delaying the planting until May 2 is very appropriate. The location of planting also just happens to be very appropriate. The appropriateness of it all will be explained next Saturday.