I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
This tree is visible from a window in the San Francisco office where Dave and I spend a few days each month. For years I have looked around it, walked past it, taken pictures of the green neon shamrocks above it, but never once did I give it a second glance.
It took this sign posted on a barricade protecting a newly planted tree on the other side of town to make me take a closer look at my neighborhood.
Friends of the Urban Forest is affiliated with a mapping project that began five years ago–its goal to identify and catalog all of San Francisco’s trees with the help of city government, nonprofits, and citizens. The result, the urban forest map, quantifies CO2 reduction, water and energy conserved, and pollutants reduced because of the trees.
I went to the online map certain that my newly discovered tree on Howard Street between First and Second would be on it and it was. Tree number 150163. That was it. No species identification, no trunk diameter to calculate it’s ecological impact. Just the number, waiting for someone to finish its profile.
Suddenly, it became my tree.
I walked over to get a closer look. The lone tree stands in front of the Southside Spirit House, a small bar in a one-story building huddled together with four or five other old structures in a neighborhood filled with cranes busily erecting office buildings and condominium towers.
I took pictures and studied the trunk and leaves. Sitting down at my computer I used the urban tree identification guide, step-by-step, but couldn’t figure it out.
Dave went with me to take another look. We gathered leaves and seed pods.
Back at the computer, this time armed with samples, I tried again. Were the leaves compound or simple? I followed both paths, but still couldn’t identify the tree. Was it a floss silk or a cape chestnut or a Chinese fringe? Maybe it was a ficus, my first guess. I couldn’t be sure so for now it will have to wait.
On my next visit I’ll go into the spirit house, order a beer and ask the bartender if she knows when the tree blooms and what color. For now I am calling it the truffala tree in honor of the Lorax.