Death comes for a Silver Maple

What one tree means to the Baltimore family losing it.

By Stephanie Shapiro (Baltimore Brew, 4/5/2012)

Photo by: Fern Shen, Baltimore Brew

By the time we moved to Tuxedo Park nearly 16 years ago, the silver maple towering over our cedar shake house was already dying in lockstep with several of its contemporaries on our two- street.

Although the tree completed the pastoral set piece that first drew me to our home, it was hard to love for many reasons. First, it was enormous, but not stately in an “I think that I will never see a poem as lovely as a tree” way.

And, it stood inconveniently between our driveway and front walkway. Navigating its shallow, bulging roots could be treacherous when toting groceries or garbage cans, particularly in slippery conditions.
Lovely but lethal? The limb that fell and totaled their car. (Photo by Stephanie Shapiro)

One massive limb that fell in August was enough to total a car. (Photo by Stephanie Shapiro)

What’s more, the tree had been topped off in the past, an arboreal no-no. Its crown destroyed, the tree’s stunted limbs were left open to disease and insects. Over the years, those limbs became disfigured by gaping cavities resembling dugout canoes.

All the same, we loved the tree. It shaded our home and obscured the parking lot across the street. The tree housed a community of brazen raccoons, came alive with hungry squirrels and was visited from time to time by a pileated woodpecker.

Like the tree’s thick roots that strained beneath the yard and threatened to choke our septic system, the tree nestled into our family’s collective consciousness.

Lovable . . . and Lethal?

Still, it was dangerous. Now and then, a chunk of the tree came down, a reminder that neglect wasn’t always benign. Twice, an arborist and his crew wired loose limbs together, an act of faith in the tree’s overall integrity.

Early last year, the huge silver maple in my neighbor’s front yard gave way with a heaving groan and earth-shaking boom. The tree crumbled a stone wall and strewed tree parts across our adjoining yards. Peering from his window on the behind us, a young boy saw the tree fall.

We became serious about removing our tree. In high winds, it continued to drop limbs and spindly branches. Several arborists gave us an estimate, including the man who had wired the tree together. But even then, he was loathe to take it down; his love of trees perhaps clouding the truth that our silver maple was a goner.

Continue reading “Death comes for a Silver Maple” at Baltimore Brew.

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