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Science & NatureWhy the Post Office Mulberry tree was cut down

Why the Post Office Mulberry tree was cut down

One of our favourite trees, to many of us anyway, has been removed.

A Robin in the Post Office Mulberry tree. Photo by Brent Eades.

I speak of the White Mulberry (MORUS alba) which stood behind the Almonte post office for almost 3 decades. It was first planted as an ornamental Weeping Mulberry, familiar to many as an umbrella standard which weeps to the ground, not getting much higher than when it was planted — but more bushy year after year. It is a grafted variety, onto the species trunk at various heights, and cascades downward, of course. Occasionally however, the grafted section will “break” from the umbrella, sending shoots upward into a tree form (these shoots are actually off the parent stem of the species tree trunk.) Similar shoots often shoot up from the soil level. If these shoots are not removed, a new full size tree will form , as happened behind the post office. I have watched this evolve for 30 years now! Unfortunately though, the white mulberry is not 100% hardy to the Ottawa area–probably a zone 5b at best — but it did well by the river in Almonte, despite occasional dieback in the early years.

My first reaction to this tree’s removal was anger — why? — because so many things get done these days with so little thought, and too much overreaction. I dug around a bit, going from office to office trying to find the answer, and just by accident met the gentlemen who had actually performed the job. We had a very professional and logical discussion, friendly I might add, about the decision to remove this tree.

Although it appeared healthy and vigorous above ground, there was indeed a problem at the soil level, indicating a fair bit of rot on the trunks, and some new suckering. New suckering on a tree, no matter where, can often indicate a problem (not always though). So as this particular species is not completely hardy as mentioned, it is indeed quite feasible that the root system of the tree was barely holding on. That is to say, it was good enough to feed the tree , yet not developed enough to support it, over time.The potential result of course, is that the tree could just tip over due to unsupported weight above the ground, or it could split apart at ground level, not necessarily even in high winds or rain.

These being the potential prognoses then, the work crew didn’t have much choice, and after relating the situation to public works, the decision to remove was made. I did mention to them that it will readily sucker again, and head towards a new tree, that decision will be made by pw.

It was a beautiful shade tree, and fed us with a summer snack, not to mention the waxwings, robins, various blackbirds, and other wild things depending on food. It was rather sad to see the birds collecting the fallen berries from an area now in full sun. Could we plant another White Mulberry in the same place? Why not? A species tree would be a little more successful than the original grafted ornamental planted 30 years ago.

So yes, I was angry at first, but I looked before I leapt, checked the facts, problem solved. Our public works department is commended for keeping things safe, and having worked for a similar department many years ago, I know well what they endure from the general public.

Allan Goddard, Almonte




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