“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in” says an ancient Greek proverb. So what does it mean when our society is intent on planting trees that grow quickly? One can do a search of the internet on “fast growing trees” and get pages of response – but nothing for “trees for grandchildren.”
I recently overheard an arborist musing that we have become a society of people who want instant gratification and are thus planting selfish trees. You know, the ones that grow fast, make a pretty picture, and die young. Like a Bradford pear or a Leyland cypress.
At Arlington county’s free tree distribution, small flowering trees and shrubs are requested three times more often than the taller canopy trees. Is this because serviceberries and redbuds have lovely flowers that bloom within a few years? Or is it that few yards have the space free of overhead wires for a white oak, tulip poplar, or black gum? And what role does living in a mobile society where we have no ideas where our grandchildren will grow up so we could plant a tree that will benefit them directly?
Have we created an environment that encourages us not to plan for the next generation?