Let me count the ways to trash trees.

I’ll start with careless butchery done every day by lawn mowers and string trimmers. I’ll add volcano mulch piled up around trees by jackleg landscapers. Then there are trees pruned like coat racks— unmercifully and unnecessarily. These treacherous pea-brained practices can be avoided.

Post mortem on dead, thornless honey locust at McDonald’s on South 3rd Street in Louisville, Kentucky: volcano mulch, planted too deeply, mechanical damage, poor soil and inadequate watering. 

Coat-racked silver maples, and volcano mulch, in front of Louisville’s Assumption High School, Louisville, Kentucky.

Stay three feet away from a tree’s trunk with mechanical equipment; don’t mulch trees to look like Vesuvian mole hills and allow a shade tree to grow naturally when there is ample space. Or plant smaller trees when there is not.

TreesLouisville photo

Tree decline and death are often careless consequences of the stubborn, misinformed, greedy and criminal.

Clear cutting the Amazon rainforest for another acre of soybeans is morally indefensible. Inside Climate News reports more carbon is spewing from the Amazon basin than is being absorbed. The public risk isn’t clear to everyone.

I can’t see the damage, but my mind aches if I dwell on a planet in downward spiral.

This past July was the hottest month, on earth, in recorded history.

I bear witness when I walk out the door.

I smell smoke from western USA wildfires and rub my burning eyes.

Farm monoculture and lone tree in the Amazon Basin. Wikimedia Commons, Bruno Kelly photo.

We are all local.

My tree-hugging friend, Tim Morton, shared a Facebook Post, earlier this month, from Louisville Councilwoman Nicole George that sadly informed her constituents: “The destruction of the newly planted trees on South 3rd Street is hurtful. It isn’t about the trees, which can be replaced, it’s about what the trees symbolized to neighbors (i.e., investment, connection and sweat equity) that makes me sad. Fortunately, Louisville Grows shows up even when it is difficult.”



Slash-and-trash. Nicole George Photo.

Facebook readers agreed with Councilwoman George.

Others were dumbfounded and angry by the slash-and-trash prowler(s).

Why on earth would anyone do this?



Someone needs a switch pulled from one of those trees applied rigorously to their hind ends.

Oh, that stinks! People can be ridiculously stupid.

What has our community come to?

We are surrounded by idiots.

So much ugly hatred in the world now

Mercifully, there are good—very good—community-wide tree lovers and planters in Louisville.

Louisville Grows shows up to replant. Nicole George photo.

Ked Stanfield, Executive Director of Louisville Grows, responded in an email: “We had about 12 trees damaged.  Some were uprooted, some were snapped in half.  We replanted and staked the ones that were uprooted and splinted a few of the ones that were snapped that seemed salvageable…We are going to wait until this fall to replace some and wait until the spring to see if some of the others continue to leaf out and replace the ones that didn’t make it.” 

Matt Spalding, Education and Volunteer Program Manager, of Louisville’s Olmsted Parks Conservancy, explained further: “The short answer is size—the larger the tree, the harder it is to damage. Usually, it appears that kids have done the damage. When we’re sourcing trees, especially specimen trees meant to be set out in the landscape, surrounded by turf grass, we try for balled and burlapped, or at least 1.5-2” trunk diameter. On occasion, if we find the right selection but it’s a smaller container, we’ll still go ahead and plant it. These small trees are the ones that get uprooted. When that happens, we note it, order a bigger one and replace the next fall. Don’t get me started on beech bark carvings!”

Planting more trees alone won’t curb global warming, but it is a potent counter offensive against a troubling view that the effects of climate could be irreversible. We need healthy, public green spaces that cool down tempers and neighborhoods—everywhere.

Is there a better, more innovative, way to teach one another how to plant, properly tend and dignify trees for the common good? 

TreesLouisville has offered a $1000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the maliciousness. I hope the angry perp(s) are exposed and sentenced to a long-stretch on a community tree-planting gang.

I would follow up by requiring the penitent to write Joyce Kilmer’s poem on the blackboard one-hundred times…

“I think that I shall never see

A poem as lovely as a tree…”