In the middle of our teeny tiny backyard was the huge trunk and spindly, misshapen and disproportional limbs of an apparently dead or dying tree, not a leaf to be seen. In this area, leafless trees are dead trees, our mild climate not providing the annual rhythm of deciduous trees.
We called it the Dr. Seuss tree, as it resembled the quirky drawings in the beloved children’s books. The seller of the home had provided us with pages of information on the tree she planted: a Baobab. She also mentioned she dug it up and re-buried the roots in a giant pot, after she learned that it would grow to sixty feet.
Busy with the interior remodeling, I hardly noticed the dead tree springing back to life, putting out light green stalks with leaflets. Although the trunk did resemble the Baobab pictures, the leaf shape did not. I did my own sleuthing, even contacting the botanists at Disney, as they have many exotic tree specimens including a gigantic, fake Baobab (a.k.a. the African Tree of Life) featured in many Disney films.
Maybe they would want mine? I mused, dreaming of a yard full of herbs and flowers and maybe a small lime tree. Useful for making cosmos, you know. Wouldn’t Disney just adore having a real Baobab, available for the price of hauling it out of my yard?
The botanist was kind enough to answer my query, which was sent complete with pictures. They weren’t in the market at the moment, he said, and by the way, he thought the tree was a Moringa, not a Baobab.
I looked up Moringa trees, and sure enough, the pictures matched the leaf pattern and general appearance of my tree. I also learned that Moringa trees might be an answer to world hunger as the leaves are edible and supply high quality protein, along with vital vitamins and minerals. The seed pods have been found to be rich in a type of oil useful for biofuels, and various parts can be used to make herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, shampoos and other products. Additionally, the Moringa thrives in the very area of the world where the worst poverty and hunger exists. Wow, maybe it isn’t the “tree of life” of Disney fame, but it certainly earns the title as well.
I write this now because the tree is just putting out its new leaves—despite its appearance, it is not really deciduous, but a tropical tree, adapting to our subtropical climate. Against the backdrop of deep green ficus and native buttonwood, its foliage is brilliant, almost neon. I no longer contemplate cutting down or re-homing my quirky and seasonally ugly tree. It has earned its place with its expressive form and its representation of value to mankind. It reminds me daily not to be too quick in judgment. Give things and people a chance, you never know what treasures await.
© 2014 Tracey Enerson Wood. All rights reserved.