Arriving by plane, as soon as one departs the
Not surprisingly, palms in
As evergreens, palms during this St. Patrick’s Day parade retain their leaves.
Compare this to the deciduous trees of the area, such as the crepe myrtle, which are just starting to spout their blossoms and young leaves at this time.
Palm trees, at least the genera that flourish in
A quick scan of the landscape upon landing in a city like
Do these pieces add up yet? A quick trip to some of the swamps outside of
Here in the swamps south of the city, near
A photo elsewhere down this waterway (it was a canal, much as I’d like to say it was a bayou) shows a little bit more verdure than one would ever encounter in the icy north in January. To the right in the photo below, within the red circle, is the dwarf palmetto, one of the most northerly members of this family; apparently it can survive as far north as
It would appear that the riparian understory does support flora that remain green in the winter; the taller trees in the background clearly don’t share this feature. Most apparent, however, is the absence of any towering palms or other evergreens; away from the cities and persistent human influence, the trees do not grow. They are not native.
So why, despite their potential health problems, are palms widely visible in the urban areas of south
Private homeowners may have adopted the tree for its aesthetics, but I don’t doubt for a minute that civic leaders of
With the exception of the dwarf palmetto, these various palms are introduced species to the
So earlier generations introduced the palm family to the American Southeast to serve purely aesthetic aims and it has generally blended well when under horticultural supervision; conversely, they introduced kudzu for ecological palliative and restorative ambitions and it has wreaked havoc. Both plants have accrued symbolic associations that, at least in cities like
One plant surpasses either kudzu or palms at evoking the muggy clime of the
Perhaps its precision gives Spanish moss its advantage; it doesn’t stretch everywhere across the South like kudzu (you probably won’t see it in
Why is Spanish moss hard to find on oak trees grown in back yards or canopied over city streets, yet the parks still seem to have them? I can’t help but wonder if the plant only thrives in open spaces, but otherwise struggles if an area is too urbanized. And the City of New Orleans Parks and Recreation decided to import it for its parks, deliberately flinging it onto city-owned trees to add Southern Gothic flavor in a city steeped with such tradition. Of course I’m probably projecting conspiracy theories, but it is clear that both cities and private landowners reduce certain plants to commodities, not just for agricultural or ornamental purposes but even because of the semantic legacy embedded within them. The future of