Lileks: Here we go 'round the hucklebush

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • May 17, 2014 - 3:36 PM

A few columns back I discussed the steps necessary to get the city to replace a tree they tore out because it showed signs of something experts call “death.” I was assured someone would call me soon, and this being a sane city with honest people, that is exactly what happened.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board fellow offered me a tree he called — I think — a hucklebush. My wife was perturbed: A bush is not a tree. Maybe I had it wrong. It was a huckletrunk. I told the city to put in that flowering hucklebark whatever, and a day later I had a tree. That was fast.

The next day the parks guy called up again: He had a Kentish birch elm, or something. I don’t know.

“It’s a Charlie Brown tree, but it grows up fast and fills out real nice. I had a homeowner turn it down,” he said. “It’s available right now.”

You think: Who turns down a free tree? Someone who Googled it and saw key phrases like “attracts clouds of gnats March-October; exudes floods of mucus; groans at night when growing.”

On the other hand, this means I am adopting a rescue tree. Someone else didn’t want it. Images of a sad tree sitting in a ball of netted dirt, staring up at the camera. Kentish birch is looking for a loving family that will give him lots of water and sun. He likes to be green in the summer!!! If you don’t mind a few days when he gives off so much pollen the sun is blotted out then THIS IS THE TREE FOR YOU.

Still waiting for that one. In the meantime, I could examine the instructional CD that came with the hucklebush. (Imagine living in 1958, and the city plants a tree on the boulevard and hands you a LP record with instructions.) But I’d rather study up on invasive insects, because I think I read that the Kentish birch elm beetle was moving north, and would wipe out all North American examples.

It’s in Peru now, but come 2243 A.D. I’d better make plans for another replacement.

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