Sunday, September 11, 2005

The survival of the Oaks

I cannot imagine a New Orleans without Live Oak trees. They are the most powerful single symbol of the physical city, more so than the River or any other feature.

I was terribly distressed to hear early after the storm that St. Charles was littered with broken trees, with few survivors.

Now arborsts report that the 720 live oaks that drape St. Charles Avenue are expected to survive, as are the large stands at the southern end of City Park and in Audubon Park.

Live oaks evolved here on the coastal zone," said arborist John Benton
in a Times-Picayne story. "They're designed for this geography and this
weather. They're tough."

State Department of Forestry and Agriculture personnel haven't yet begun to
examine tree damage or urban reforestation, focusing instead on its continuing
role in the search for Katrina's human victims. And the department won't send
urban foresters in into the New Orleans area until environmental testing
indicates it is safe to return, said Paul Orr, a department spokesman.But Orr
said he has seen enough from satellite imagery to agree with Benton's assessment
that the oldest live oaks on high, dry ground along City Park Avenue should be
safe, while those growing in more northerly sections of the park, flooded Old
Metairie and the New Orleans lakefront are in peril.

Benton reported "unbelievable" tree loss throughout what he calls "new Metairie" north of West Metairie Avenue. "The live oaks and palms, which also evolved along the beach and are adapted to the area, did very well," he said. "But those other tall trees, especially the water oaks, which did most of the damage south of the lake, were down everywhere."

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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