It was not the smoothest pitch.
”Oaks are awesome.” the email began. “That is why Illinois renamed October OAKtober in 2015. But Chicago oaks are under attack from the following: Oak wilt; Bur Oak Blight; Oak Anthracnose; Root Rot; Sudden Oak Death...”
My reply was not a sarcastic “Oh no, not oak wilt!” But an enthusiastic “Yes!” to the suggestion that I discuss the oak situation with an arborist. The reason? My own hidden agenda, a cloud of oak-based guilt, over the pin oak I murdered by planting it in my front yard almost 20 years ago.
”People like to live around oak trees,” said Shawn Kingzette, a certified arborist at Davey Tree base in East Dundee. “But our oak ecosystems are at risk.”
We talked about the various oak ailments outlined in the email. Sudden Oak Death, for instance, is caused by a fungus carried in the soil of rhododendrons. “It’s a relatively new disease, especially in the Midwest,” Kingzette said. “It’s a phytophthora fungus.”
Then I brought up the lost pin oak. Tall, with pointy leaves. I did my best to see it into the world, but ... sniff! ... it died. My fault?
”With pin oaks we have a saying: ‘The right tree in the right place,’” he began, soothingly. “It could be the soil you have. Pin oaks like an acidic, good-draining soil. It might not have been the right setting for a pin oak to thrive. You might not have done anything specifically wrong.”
Whew. While I had him on the line, I had to ask: those deeply lobed leaves; what’s the purpose? I assumed they cut down on wind resistance.
”I don’t know whether you believe in God,” Kingzette began, betraying himself as a non-reader of the column. “But just the beauty, the shape. The rounded lobe of the white oak, the pointed lobs of a pin. I’m sure there’s some benefit, but it’s just pretty.”
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