Monday, November 20, 2023

Inescapable Landscapes


Flint Expatriates
1515 Illinois Avenue, Flint, Michigan.

"We can’t help ourselves. We are shaped by the landscapes we are born to as inescapably as any other earthly creature born to any other ecosystem."

Margaret Renkl in the New York Times

Flint Expat Classics: Ode to the Ghetto Palm (Ailanthus Altissima)

Originally published on Friday, June 19, 2009

I mentioned the ghetto palm in my story on
house hunting in Flint, and it seems some readers are not familiar with the charms of this invasive species, also known as the Tree-of-Heaven. I'll let the Plant Conservation Alliance, which describes the tree on its "Alien Plant Working Group Least Wanted" list, sing its praises:

"Tree-of-heaven is a prolific seed producer, grows rapidly, and can overrun native vegetation. Once established, it can quickly take over a site and form an impenetrable thicket. Ailanthus trees also produces toxins that prevent the establishment of other plant species. The root system is aggressive enough to cause damage to sewers and foundations."
It also has a nice stank about it and is very difficult to eradicate.

"You have to cut them down and keep cutting them down for three years to get rid of them," exclaimed Tim Monahan, the president of the Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association, over coffee yesterday. Needless to say, he's not a big fan.

But I can't be too hard on the much-maligned trees. After all, I've got a ghetto palm forest in my temporary backyard. I'm trying to blend in and not provoke these aggressive predators, especially after learning
"each leaflet has one to several glandular teeth near the base.