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Homefront: Did you lose a beloved tree?

Homefront: Did you lose a beloved tree?

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It has occurred to me, somewhat belatedly, that not only did we lose trees in the Aug. 10 derecho, we lost SPECIAL, beloved trees.

Interviewing Mark Hirsch, author and photographer of a book titled "That Tree," drove home the point. "That Tree" — a majestic bur oak growing on a farm near Platteville, Wisconsin, and made famous in Hirsch's book — was toppled in the storm.

I've also heard from several readers, including Margo Hansen, director of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton that has had to temporarily close while tree cleanup continues.

"We had heartbreaking damage at the Arb with the loss of 28 larger trees and significant damage to over 70 smaller trees and shrubs," she wrote in an email. "I am afraid it will be a long time before the tree professionals get here."

How about you? If you'd like to share a story about a special tree you lost, please send it to me at Also please send a picture — either as the tree appeared before the storm, or after, or both.

I'd like to recognize these losses.

SPEAKING OF:  I've written time and again (including today) about the need for people in cities to plant habitat to try to make up for some of the vast amounts of habitat that have been lost to development.

Several years ago I reported on a couple in Bettendorf who planted prairie plants in their FRONT yard, a somewhat unconventional move, but not unheard of. Over the years the plants thrived and got to be a big mass of habitat. Then the owners decided to move and sell their house and, well, you might guess what happened next.

The new owners have cut down the flowers.

I don't know how long it will take for the "mowed lawn is beautiful" mindset to change. Obviously, it hasn't budged much yet.

'IF PEOPLE COULD SEE': As Greg Gackle of Bettendorf said in an email, "I think if people could see the diversity of insects and birds drawn to native plantings/pollinator gardens, more people would make room in their front and back yards for such plants."

He reported that he and his wife Judy have a front yard pollinator garden and they've seen "many monarchs, yellow swallowtails and Eastern black swallowtails" this summer.

"The butterflies often are at odds with the many bees trying to get nectar/pollen from the flowers.

"We've also noticed many more birds with the native prairie plants that include swamp milkweed, grey-headed coneflowers, yarrow, hyssop and prairie blazing star.

"We see gold finches, wrens and hummingbirds pretty much daily. Before we added the prairie plants, we rarely saw any of those species.

"Last evening when I went into our porch, I noticed a huge moth on the screen. I believe it was a cecropia moth.

"I have seen more milkweed plants around the neighborhood, but it is disappointing that most people can't imagine anything in their front yard other than wide expanses of turf grass with a few trees and shrubs," Gackle wrote.

He sent a picture of one of his plantings that we're sharing today, along with several other recent reader submissions.

ANSWER TO A QUESTION: Joanne from Bettendorf wrote in asking me to find out "why cottonwood trees didn't disperse their cotton this year."

"Usually the yard, inside of the garage, the patio and the air conditioner are all loaded with the fluffy cottonwood pieces. This year there was nothing," she wrote.

"Also, the maples did not seem to drop the dreaded whirly-gigs all over the place. What was going on that these two common acts of nature didn't happen this year?"

I sent her question to Richard Jauron, of the Iowa State University Extension Hortline, and here is what he said:

"Tree species differ in the frequency of producing large crops of seeds.  For example, silver maples tend to produce a heavy seed crop every year, while sugar maples tend to produce a heavy seed crop every 3 to 7 years. 

"Weather and other factors can affect flowering and fruiting. For example, freezing temperatures in spring (when trees are flowering) can damage or destroy the flowers, drastically reducing the fruit crop. 

"Maples and cottonwoods bloom in early spring.  I suspect the cold temperatures in April may have damaged the flowers, drastically reducing the number of seeds."

I am relieved that with so much going wrong in our natural world that this question, at least, seems to have a benign explanation.



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