Vandalism

The little Memorial Tree was found to be askew late Wednesday afternoon.

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.

Although the Memorial Tree initially seemed to be undamaged, three major cuts were found in the trunk.

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree is happy in its new home.

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. There was initially 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 will be added to an end of a row of other cypress that are intended 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.

Another Memorial Tree

There are big plans for this little tree.

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.

Memorial Tree Update

This is the best season so far! Because this is the first update on this blog, there is nothing here to compare the progress of this small Memorial Tree to; but links to older updates on another blog can be found at the older (reblogged) article, ‘May 2‘. Some of those updates link to even more updates. This little Memorial Tree has had quite a history in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

It is actually the fourth tree in this particular spot. The original black oak was run over by a car many years ago, leaving the site vacant for a long time. An Eastern red cedar was planted on New Year’s Day in 2013, but later the following summer, succumbed to what dogs do to small trees. A bigleaf maple was planted the following winter, but also succumbed in its second year.

In the last few years since then, this little valley oak has contended with major difficulties too. Until recently, it had been gouged regularly by weed eaters when the weeds around it were cut down, even though we regularly pull the weeds around it so that the weed eater does not need to get so close. Before it could recover from getting gouged, it got gouged again, several times!

This is why it is still so puny. Every year, it puts out only a few inches of new growth. In fact, that is how it started out this year, with only a few inches of new spring growth that blinded out too early in the season. Then, for no apparent reason, it put out a second phase of summer growth, with an abundance of vigorous shoots that are about a foot long! This is very encouraging.

Although still puny, the little Memorial Tree is exhibiting the sort of resilience and vigor that it needs to survive in this less than optimal situation. As the bark of the lower trunk matures, it will be less susceptible to damage caused by weed eaters. As the tree grows up and above pedestrian traffic, the limbs will be less susceptible to breakage. The next few years will be critical.

No more growth is expected this late in summer, although the small new leaves will likely continue to expand for a while. Terminal buds are likely in the process of blinding out for the year. When the tree is dormant and defoliated in autumn, lower limbs will get pruned away, and the main trunk will get bound and staked. There will be no rush, as long as it is done before spring.

The picture above shows how long the new growth is. The picture below shows how this new growth looks on the small tree. The picture at the bottom shows how much smaller the tree was not too long ago. It also shows that weeds are pulled around the tree.