Friday, June 19, 2009

under a big leaf

Yesterday, my walk to work took a slight detour. I decided to trek around the Sarah Duke Garden’s Bloomquist Garden. There, you can easily find several big-leaf magnolias. This native tree is worth the trip since it is rarely found in the wild and it boasts the largest simple leaf structure of any tree in North America. As if this week’s humidity wasn’t enough of a reminder of how tropical our woods can feel in the summer……

I was intrigued by a recent article in the Charlotte Observer that mentioned the rare big-leaf magnolia. The news story was about a new nature preserve surrounding Redlair Farm in Gaston County where a good many of these trees still have a natural foothold.

Given Charmeck’s urban sprawl, it sounds like a victory for more than just environmentalists. Advocates for historic preservation can and should cheer too. Preserving the history of local landscapes means more than just cleaning up a cemetery or rehabbing a farmhouse. It also means recognizing the value of diminishing habitats, land features, and ways of life. Less big-leaf magnolias and more loblolly pines may mean that more than just our physical geography is changing. It can be symptomatic of cultural change too. So, should Preservation North Carolina be rallying equally to save rare plants and mill villages? I’m not ready to say just that, but tree huggers and building huggers should hug each other more often. Together they might keep more bulldozers at bay.

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