I saddled up to the counter, awaiting a steaming rooibus tea, when a low voice displaced the pleasant conversation I was making with the cute server.
“Quercus coccinea, therein lies the problem,” Logger Mike stated ominously with a righteous nod.
“What? Are you having a stroke?” I replied testily at the interruption.
Big Mike smiled, tipped his yellow hat to the bemused young lady behind the counter and thumped me heavily between the shoulder blades.
“I’ve got this guy’s and I’ll have coffee – black, straight up,” Mike said with a wink.
Again, nothing but surprises from Campbell River’s oversized sentinel who towers over the rest of us and sees and hears all from his downtown spar pole.
“You must want something,” I replied.
“No, no, just throwing the dog a bone,” he said, cackling with laughter. “I just thought it was time you learned something truly important about our city.”
I said nothing and awaited the revelation.
“Look around,” Logger Mike began with a sweep of his long arm, nearly knocking the coffee off the next table, “We’re surrounded by forest and somehow we haven’t learned to properly grow trees in Campbell River! Here, lemme show ya.”
We strolled Shoppers Row as small children gawked at the huge yellow man while their moms continued texting and driving, and he pointed up.
“Platanus x acerifolia,” he said, plucking a leaf.
“Okay, enough Latin, just spell it out,” I said impatiently.
“It’s the London plane tree and while they might look pretty, their roots are bad news for the sewers and all the underground infrastructure,” he said matter-of-factly. “And they’re driving the business owners nuts!”
He continued on to the corner of the highway and St. Ann’s Road, “Quercus coccinea, remember?” he said, looking at the blank look on my face. “They are the new scarlet oaks the city just planted on their newly repaved street and they just could be worse than the London planes!”
I scoffed, “No, no, that’s not what the city said, they will contain the roots and the trees won’t grow…”
“Stop! You believe everything the city tells you?” he asked. “Let me point out that a full-grown scarlet oak can have a 50-foot canopy AND acorns much larger than your average oak.
“To make it worse, when you contain a tree that’s supposed to grow big, you’re probably going end up with the toothpicks we had on South Dogwood.”
H’mm, he was starting to make sense, yet again, as I thought of the spindly, stunted and dying trees on South Dogwood that hadn’t grown two inches in 14 years. They were recently uprooted and will be replaced with 80 European hornbeam trees, which don’t exactly sound like a native species, like the scarlet oak.
“And what about your downtown twig? Nervous?” I asked Big Mike.
“Nope,” he said with a wink. “I made sure they used plenty of concrete to anchor my spar pole!”