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Guestwords: A Message From the Trees

Thu, 10/26/2023 - 06:06

Listen closely, my friends, the trees are speaking to us more than you realize. And they’re not just talking, some are screaming. And rightly so. Many of them are hurting. Hurting badly, and others are openly sympathizing because their days will be coming.

I’m not a Debbie Downer by nature, but I’ll admit that our community needs to be educated about what’s here or coming down the pike. Many trees are in trouble. The Ladies Village Improvement Society’s tree committee I lead is probably my most passionate “job” since I retired from teaching hundreds of 5, 6, 7, and 8-year-old local children. (Oh, and those infamous fifth and eighth graders who sadly had to deal with a newlywed teacher who had no idea what she was instructing!)

Upon retirement, trees suddenly became my life, and my husband attests to it daily. I can’t help it. I like learning, and trees have become my purpose. I am no arborist and I am not a landscaper, but I’ve tried to assimilate any and every little piece of tree information I can.

I miss a lot too, which is why I beg people to be observant of our trees — private or public. Check your own property and let us know if you notice something off. Notice trees’ symmetrical or asymmetrical structure, their leaves, their curvy, crooked, straight, or cracked branches, their lumpy “arthritic” or “girdling” (strangulation!) roots. The list goes on, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know if a tree is in trouble.

Yes, a number of tree diseases are here. We have seen it with the brutal southern pine beetle destruction on Napeague and off Swamp Road. Dutch elm disease always worries us, with our ancient ladies that grace our beautiful lanes and main streets. Thankfully, East Hampton Village and the L.V.I.S. use “vitamins” and “tree chemo” to keep D.E.D. at bay, at least for as long as we can. The ash tree population is spiraling down because of the emerald ash borer that basically cleaned out entire ash tree forests in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic States, and now the Northeast.

One of the latest biggies is beech leaf disease, which came on with a vengeance. Mike Gaines of CW Arborists has been instrumental in looking for ways to combat this and honestly does his own experiments to diagnose the life of nematodes. Just over three years ago did we East Enders learn about beech leaf. Entire woods of beech trees are jeopardized. Scientists are feverishly working on a remedy, but it’s costly and not proven to be totally effective. Yet, fingers crossed.

Lately we have seen articles about the spotted lanternfly, a beautiful insect known as a hitchhiker for its ability to grab rides on vehicles and then feast on its favorite meals such as fruit trees and grapes.

We all need to be very aware that trees are very much like you and me. They age. They break. They get sick, and sometimes, no matter what we do to help — pruning, giving organic treatments and chemical injections, aerating roots, watering (there’s never enough rain for many trees) — they don’t make it. And that’s why our street trees present a problem under these conditions. We don’t want people to get smacked by a dead branch or get hit by a fallen tree while walking down a sidewalk or driving down a street.

The Village of East Hampton will never take down a tree without a complete assessment by experts and a discussion with the L.V.I.S. We hate losing our trees, but diseased or aged-out species cannot be dismissed.

So, I’m giving everyone a heads up. You’re going to see some significant trees being taken down. The L.V.I.S. mission is to replace them and we will. The trees know when their time is up. In East Hampton Village the trees put faith in us, especially when they lose a friend. A new youngster will come along, but we will never forget the soldier who stood there for years and brought us serenity and beauty.

The trees speak. We must stay alert and be sensitive with what we need to do for them and for us.

Olivia Brooks is the chairwoman of the tree committee of the Ladies Village Improvement Society in East Hampton.

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