Sunday, February 8, 2015

on the trimming of palm trees, or, the palm and the heron, or, there was an old palm with a beard

This week in my neighborhood they trimmed the palm trees.

By the third day, they were on my street.

There are hundreds of palms in this little pocket of town, and the more I look at them, well, perhaps it is the Midwesterner in me that finds it hard to think of them as trees, real trees, like the oak, the maple, the birch.

They seem more like something out of Dr. Seuss.

Anyway, one day the guy who seemed to be in charge of the trimming operation was right in front of my house so I went out to talk to him. I figured he was in charge because he was not climbing a tree, not wearing a hardhat, not wielding a chain saw, not piling up felled fronds and debris, not swinging a leaf blower, not feeding fronds and stalks and such into a wood chipper.

Neither was he in a cherry picker.

Rather, he was driving around in a truck with a yellow light on top, and he just happened to stop and get out of his truck. He was kind enough to answer some questions, and we shouted at each other above the noise of the chain saws and the wood chipper.

Good job, fella.

He said the trees were about 40 to 50 years old.

Yes, that’s a chain saw swinging from his belt.

And 70 to 80 feet tall.

You’re next, shaggy boy.

Then I asked the most pressing question: Is it true that rats nest in the old, dry fronds that hang like big beards on untrimmed trees? Yes, he said, and pointed to some palms across the way, in the next neighborhood. You’ll find colonies of rats in there, he said.

But these trees just have little goatees. See the great blue heron pausing
for his close-up? As close as I could get, anyway. Two of nature
’s
oddities (if you ask me), right there. The palm and the heron.

Because I see so many herons in the trees, I asked if they nest there. He said no.

Here’s the trimmings from one palm. Just fronds and stalks and what
look like leather shoulder pads. No rats or nests or anything.

He said in this neighborhood they trim the palms at least once a year.

The view from the kitchen window.

In other neighborhoods, palms never get trimmed.

Yes, I smell a rat. Maybe two.

Which reminds me of a poem.

There was an Old Palm with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!—
Seventy-two rats and sixty-three bats
Have all built their nests in in my beard.”

With thanks and apologies to Edward Lear.