Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cascara 2.0

It's a cascara tree. No human planted it. It was a gift from a bird who gave a shit, but not about property lines. When Dave put up a fence between our house and the next, he put it up as close to the tree as he could. Even with that, later, we realized we'd stolen some two feet from the neighbor's yard to accommodate the tree. So we had to buy the neighbor's house.

Cascaras are native here, which is good. That means birds will like it, and insects will live in it, which means the birds will like it even more. I didn't think it was that attractive, at first. Kind of dull. But that was before I started writing, and before we designated the room closest to the tree as a writing room, and before I had a chance to appreciate the birds that appreciated the tree. Now I do. I count on them. The tree is up past the second story and that means its branches are right outside my writing-room window. It shouldn't have gotten much taller than that, but it did, because it's in shadow and yearned for the sun I suppose, and we had to whack off the topmost branches because they shaded our solar panels.

That was a few years ago. The tree hasn't done well since. It could be the coppicing, but it's old for a cascara, and maybe it was doomed already. Most of it is flat-out dead. It's a weird tree. New parts keep springing out of the old so that there are viable branches going vertically out of the dead stuff. It looks like a huge, unruly menorah. I don't know how long it hopes to keep this up, but already the leafy shade our birdhouse birds might be relying on is gone. There are just a few cowlicks of leaves left.

So what you ordinarily do when a tree is dying on your little city lot is you take it down and replace it. That's understood. You tell all the shrubs that it just went to live in the country, but that's not what really happens.

I dithered about it. I need that tree. My window is on the second floor. You can't just swap a big tree out that fast. If I didn't have my birds to look at, I'd just be staring at a blank computer screen, and that tends to panic writers.

Then my birds caught wind of the plans and started piping up. They pecked at the dead parts and pulled out little grubby snacks. They grabbed seeds from the feeder and stashed them in the flaky bark. They loved it. TERRIFIC, said the chickadees. Yeah? Okay.

The bushtits lined up on a branch together. SOME TWIG, they spelled out.

Hey. I know this story. This is the story where you think everything's going great and then you lose your very best spider, and it's horribly sad. I was morose for days.

Then I was weeding a patch beneath the unruly menorah tree and saw them. Remember? That's not the end of the story after all! There, in an empty pot at the base of the cascara, were two friendly little cascara seedlings, six inches tall. I can plant them next to the dying tree and maybe they'll grow up right alongside! They said they're willing to give it a go.

33 comments:

  1. I get attached to my trees, too, even though most of them were planted by birds and squirrels. (Squirrels are avid gardeners; not only do they plant trees, but they prune them, too.) We had a white birch in front of our house, and it came down with some sort of borer and died, as white birches are wont to do. I cried when it was cut down. Then, lo and behold, white birch trunks started shooting out of the rotting trunk in such a fast and furious manner that it didn't take long for it to be more a "tree" than just a bunch of twigs sprouting up. I wish your cascara saplings well. May they grow quickly and resplendently.

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    1. The little ones were six inches tall when I pulled them out of that pot and put them in the ground, but now, a month later, they're fifteen inches tall. I'm encouraged.

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  2. How nice of the dying tree to give you an inheritance :)

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    1. And I never saw a seedling until this year. Weird.

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  3. You reminded me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn8YubD01sk

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  4. Nature is pretty resilient, given half a chance. I LOVE that shot of the chickadee!

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    1. Marge and Studley Windowson came back after the nuthatches gave up and got us a whole litter of chickadees. I couldn't be prouder. That's Marge. Or Studley.

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  5. Cascara is a pretty potent laxative. Like you, it gets rid of a lot of shit.

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    1. This is why the Spanish called it "sacred bark."

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  6. SOME TWIG. It's a classic! Love you, Murr!

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    1. Bushtits can spell anything. They come in paragraphs.

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    2. Unless there are three of them...

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  7. Your tree may just be in it's MOST import manifestation. Hope you won't have to take it down for many more years so the birds can make homes in it and find food in it. Great blog.

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    1. One thing about paying attention to birds--your idea of what looks good in the landscape changes.

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  8. Amen to that. My first thought when I see one of those overly-manicured neon green lawns with nary a tree to get in the way of the mower is... what do the birds around here do for food and shelter?

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    1. They come to our yard! Now if I can keep the dang cats out.

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  9. Nature is amazing. And did you know that trees talk to each other? (TED talks.)So the big old tree, knowing he was about to kick the bucket, obviously sent a memo out and summoned his heirs so you'd eventually have an inspirational view again.

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    1. I have that talk all lined up to listen to one of these nights, as a matter of fact.

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  10. I love that you have generations of trees. And that the birds appreciate the cascara. And you them. A most delightful cycle...

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  11. You get your own room to write in (in which to write)? I'm lucky I get my own underwear drawer.
    Native trees often reproduce readily when no one is watching. Bet you didn't see the start of those seedlings, did you?

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    1. With Dave's enthusiastic approval. The writing room is a little room you can lock yourself into and stay until you're not so crabby anymore.

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  12. The last thing such garden denizens do is set seed.Like crazy!(I have a half-arsed theory along these lines about Sugar Daddies and nymphets...)

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    1. Hey, I've seen verticillium-wilty maples send out squadrons of helicopters. I think you're on to something. With the sugar daddies, too.

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  13. We planted a wisteria to grow up to the arbor over our deck and spread a leaf cover. It sure did. Once a year it's gorgeous. Unless we have a late freeze, or a hard rain/hail storm. We've had both, more than once. But it is a determined plant, and it keeps showing up all over the yard. And on the roof, and in the gutters. It's less than a blessing unfortunately, but the birds do love it. So it stays, although I'm not sure we could get rid of it if we wanted to.

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    1. We had three wisterias here when we moved in and it took a good ten years to get rid of two of them.

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  14. Here's to bird-friendly native plants, even when they decline. Those cascara seedlings have spunk.

    I originally read "bushtits" as "bullsh*ts". There ought to be birds called "bullsh*ts".

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  15. remind me to tell you about the Empress tree.. 1 and 2

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    1. Isn't that the one that escaped into Eastern US in packing material from Asia and has now taken over? And not in a good way?

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  16. LOL! Unruly menorah indeed! Fabulous Murr!

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    1. Oh, it's highly unattractive. 'Cept to birds!

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