I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues…
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, NOTHING is going to get better. It’s not.
Catch! calls the Once-ler. He lets something fall.
It’s a Truffula Seed. It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds. And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. PROTECT it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.
In the little book, The Lorax, that Dr. Zeus penned many years ago, we were left with the hope that if we just paid attention, kept planting, kept tending our trees well, that there was a chance that the trees would come back and thrive. Sometimes though, it’s just not meant to be. The death of this particular species wasn’t caused by water pollution or fertilizer run-off or deforestation.
About 8 or 9 years ago, on a trip down to see my sister, I noticed many trees that seemed to be dying. As I crossed the state line into Georgia splotches of brown leaves showed up on both sides of the interstate. It bothered me so much that I tried to reach the Georgia Agriculture Dept. on my cell phone. I couldn’t figure out what was dying and you know how inquiring minds want to know. I love this twice-a-year road trip, getting to see the change of seasons marked by new greens in the spring, followed by blooms, and then the leaves beginning to turn in the fall. I know, there aren’t many trees that turn golden in Florida but you understand what I mean.
Anyway, someone from the Georgia Forestry Dept. finally got back to me a couple of days later with the sad news that the redbay trees were beginning to die in the southeast. These trees are not ones that you would find in a nursery. You certainly wouldn’t ever see a landscaper plant them in commercial setting. But they were plenty visible along the highways, in forests, near bays and swampy areas, or in yards shading homes. Passing by at 70 mph you might not have even noticed them or if you had, not been sure what they were. The redbay can grow upwards of 60 to 70 feet and the trunks are thick and a perfect tree for climbing. Standing under one with its dark green leaves, you could catch a scent of menthol. Many southern cooks knew to use them in gumbos or stews. My sister had a huge one right outside her kitchen and you’d always catch it’s cool aroma as you walked to her door.
Around 2002, a tiny beetle hitched a ride from Asia in some packing material. “The beetles bore tunnels into redbays, where they lay their eggs, deposit the laurel wilt spores, and then farm the fungus—at the expense of the tree’s life. Within weeks or months at most, the fungus clogs the circulatory system of the tree, and the redbay will die.” An Undefended Buffet by Susan Cerulean.
Shortly thereafter, near Savannah, people began to notice that these beautiful evergreen trees with the dark green leaves were beginning to die – almost overnight. In the years since, the beetle has moved from Georgia north to South Carolina and now has crept into southern North Carolina near the coast. It’s spread across Alabama and Louisiana and into Texas. It’s covered the state of Florida. And now, down almost every street, you can see large trees covered in dusty brown leaves.
People who built their homes around or under them are now having to cut them down and haul the pieces away. But more than just thousands of people are effected by this loss. Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on the fragrant leaves. The butterflies, along with bears and deer, eat the leaves. Squirrels supplement their diet of acorns with redbay berries as do many birds. Not just one species will be searching for food and a home with this loss.
In the case of the redbay destruction, there’s really not one person to blame. For centuries, man, insects and animals have carried diseases as they move from town to town, country to country, continent to continent. Smallpox, cholera, Asian flu, Bird flu – all spread so easily as our population began to grow and the world became smaller with new innovations in transportation.
It’s a sad thing is that I have no photos of these trees. I can remember the one at my sister’s old house and thought I had several shots of it. But searching back, I found pictures of her house but none really showing this special tree. I’m wondering if others across the south are lamenting that they too have tons of photos but none to remember the redbay that probably won’t return. One site did say that nurseries were trying to propagate redbay seedlings but another site said that these were dying as soon as the seedling reached a certain age.
I am hoping against hope that these trees will return to us just as the Truffula trees returned to “Thneedville.”
Go hug a tree today and while you’re at it – take a picture too, Anne
Background paper: Autumn Breeze
Embellishments: Autumn Breeze, Boots and Buckles Dig. Emb.
Font: Armalite Rifle