Street trees

I live in one of those neighborhoods where the streets are planted with ornamental pear trees. As my SO noted last week, now is the only time of year when that makes any kind of sense: they are all in bloom at once, and the streets look as though they are lined with giant sticks of white cotton candy. It’s magical, almost surreal. I took a walk after dark this evening and was enchanted as I stood beneath one of those trees and looked up through the blossoms at a nearby street light.

Once the blossoms are done, the glossy, dark green leaves and upright habit of the pear trees are handsome, but the massed effect is monotonous. Although they turn vivid shades of red in the fall, they then drop millions of tiny not-quite-pears on the sidewalks. The decaying fruits gum up the treads of sneakers and bicycles and attract thousands of migratory birds, who in turn wreak havoc on parked cars and drop pear seeds everywhere.

While driving home this afternoon, I took a shortcut through a neighborhood whose street tree regulations do not call for such monocultural uniformity. Among the occasional blooming ornamental pears, I saw what appeared to be a cloud of pink smoke a block or so up the street. As I got closer I realized that this effect was produced by several redbud trees planted next to one another along the street. The trees were in bloom, and their tiny magenta blossoms, spread all along their dark branches, produced a translucent pink haze. The result was subtle, surprising, and utterly delightful.

In the wake of a recent outbreak of fire blight, our homeowners’ association revised the street tree regulations to permit a little more variety in our neighborhood. The redbud isn’t on the new list, but maybe I can take some street tree committee members for a drive and let the redbuds make a case for themselves.

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