A sad end for Stumpy the Tree

Photo by Reddit

There is a program that I watch every week called Sunday Morning. This program originates on CBS and on average it brings three or four interesting stories to its viewers. This past Sunday, they did a story about a little tree called Stumpy. The anchor called it a diminutive cherry tree that is nearing the end of its life.

In 1912 the people of Japan gifted the United States with over 3,000 cherry trees as a sign of friendship between the two countries.

There were about 12 varieties of cherry trees and the majority of them were plated around the Tidal Basin and the West Potomac Park.

I was in Washington in 2009 and witnessed the Cherry Blossom Festival for myself. The trees were breathtaking and the perfume that wafted through the air was a treat to my senses.

After taking part in the annual festival which featured many marching bands on Constitutional Avenue, I was free to wander around and take in the sights on my own.

In the gardens of the National Museum of Natural History, there was a particularly beautiful cherry tree. Its branches were fully engulfed by thousands of blossoms and the shape of this tree reminded me of a Bonsai, only on a much larger scale.

I wondered if its branches had been manipulated to grow in such a pleasing shape. There were several men and women under the tree taking photographs so I could not get as close to it as I wanted, but it did not matter, this tree was magnificent from any vantage point.

In my ramblings I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, stopping now and then to try and press into my memory the beauty of this city, its buildings, its wonderful trees and the warm sunshine that caressed me. The sunshine was particularly pleasing as it was much cooler with snow still lingering on back in Calgary.

My journey did not take me as far as the Tidal Basin, so I did not see the tree they now call Little Stumpy.
As the Sunday Morning program showed this image, the little tree is nothing more than an unseemly hollowed-out trunk.

Amazingly, this trunk has produced three spindly branches and each year, these three branches are completely covered with beautiful pink blossoms. I am always amazed by the tenacity and the unwavering will of plants to survive.

From what I can make out the Potomac River experiences tidal events. Due in part to climate change and because the water levels are rising in our oceans, the sea wall can no longer control the incoming tide.
The surging tide pushes more water up the river which in turn raises the water levels in the Tidal Basin. This increase in water has already killed many trees and so there is a multi-million-dollar project on the way to raise the sea walls and fix the problem.

Unfortunately, this also means that 158 trees will have to be removed, and Stumpy, is one of them. When the public heard of the eventual demise of this little tree, their action was immediate and filled with a great deal of emotion.

People began leaving bouquets and other small mementos at Stumpy’s feet. There was even a man who serenaded the tree by playing his trumpet. Many people stood in line just to have their photograph taken in front of the tree, probably for their scrapbooks in remembrance of Stumpy.

There was even a delegation from the Japanese embassy who came to pay tribute and bowed in front of the little tree.

A commercial photographer who took many photos of Stumpy during the different seasons and in all kinds of weather conditions produced a 2014 calendar of them. He even decorated the tree with two little globes at Christmas time.

In my mind, I understand that it must be done. But I cannot help feeling remorse for this little tree stump. It has survived for many years, through good times and bad, and even in its deteriorating condition, it is still doing its utmost to bring life and beauty into our world. It is tenacious and does not know how to go quietly into the sunset.

They are taking clippings from Stumpy which means that in a way it will live on, and its trunk will be made into mulch so that it can enrich the soil for the new trees that will be planted.

It is the circle of life I suppose but even so, I am so sad that after trying so hard, this little tree is going to lose the battle.