Tree Inventory underway (again!)

French Quarter Block by Block is a project by community organizer and writer Dar Wolnik to catelogue details and share history for every block of the French Quarter. In 2011, friends and colleagues began to help with her Tree Inventory: mapping trees in the public space of the French Quarter including identification of native or unique trees with the end goal of a paper map and a GPS site of all of the trees. Tree inventories such as these assist neighbors, arborists and planners with new tree planting projects and with city wide tree canopy assessments.
The project was shelved temporarily after the initial identification and will be remapped in 2013. The Quarter is broken into four quadrants on the map and each block will be walked within each quadrant to re-check the initial map and to circle any native or unique trees for later identification.

Tree Inventory underway.

French Quarter Tree Damage

I’ve been working on a tree inventory of the French Quarter; guess I need to update it now!

Tree Maps

Mapping is a great way to show both what is available and what could be. Maps can also be the best way to literally show context. My own awareness of the city and region I live in is largely based on 2 things: anecdotal accounts from individuals, and old maps and ephemera.
I began thinking of mapping the French Quarter a few years ago and did the first one (Cheap Drinks, Bookstores and Extra Bathrooms, also known as CDBB) this year to show both local and tourists something new about the old city. It can be downloaded from this site, by searching in the mapping category.
After that map, I began thinking of other ways to surprise and came up with mapping the tree canopy and best native trees.
I walked every block of the Quarter to map the canopy of trees experienced in the public areas and then asked for volunteers among my friends to double check my work and add to it-and got 4. Greg and Jennifer had already helped with the CDBB map, and so stayed on for this one too. Beth and Marcela came to it with their own interest; Beth probably because she’ll help any organizer friend of hers and Marcela because of her passion and knowledge on native planting.
So, am currently working on finding an artist to refine my map, then will have the Tree Canopy map ready by end of year. The native tree piece is still being worked on by Marcela, and I am adding a link to her beginning, entertaining work:


and stay tuned for more.

Grand Duchess speaks for the trees

I was hurrying the other day on my way to pick up Thai food, and I felt something was…off as I passed St. Mary’s. Few people now know it as St. Mary’s but it’s the church attached to the “oldest building in the city” In other words, the church attached to the Ursuline Convent.
I looked up and noticed no rubber tree.
This rubber tree had been incredible. It had hung over the sidewalk, offering a bit of shade to sweaty tourists and greenery to sidewalk kings and queens for many years. Clearly, the cold air from last winter had done the tree in.
After picking up my food (drunken noodles with shrimp from Sukho Thai on Royal in the Marigny- I recommend), I clambered up the stairs to the Grand Duchess and her light-filled, warm rooms to ask her opinion on trees and to see if I could capture an idea or two about what to do. She made me at home and personally fixed me a rum and satsuma juice with grenadine and fresh lime juice. She always remembers the seasonal drink I choose although she added the grenadine. I like it better.

Can you tell me your thoughts on how we can re-tree the Vieux Carre to make it more shady or livable?
We prefer to think of the presence of trees as their own reward.
(I put my drink down carefully and focused my words.)

Pardon me, Duchess. Will you share some ideas as to how we can encourage tree planting?

We believe that the staff on Loyola Avenue should decree Dec and Jan as Tree Planting Months. Encourage it, offer tips on how and what to plant. Allow any fruit bearing tree or small root tree to be planted in dirt already existing on the edge of the sidewalk, or in the (aside to me with a wink) 1980s garbage inserts that you cleverly wrote about. (author’s note: I had written about the old cans built into the sidewalks that had a short life but still could be seen along some sidewalks in the Quarter. Somehow, she had read or been told about my piece.)
It would also be beneficial to add trees to balconies. These would be small trees in pots that birds would use to rest in and bring their songs to the mornings.
We would also encourage our people to add larger trees to their courtyards wherever possible, remembering the fig trees and orange trees and persimmon trees among many others that could be found throughout the village in the near past. We would also ask the staff on Loyola to offer a small metal bench (1.5 feet long, no more) for any area planted with 2 or more shade trees. The bench would be embedded in the concrete and encourage sitting by passersby or for the store owners who enjoy gazing despairingly at non-shoppers on their streets.

Certainly encouraging people to add trees is wonderful, but why should they go to the trouble?
We believe that trees have their own reasons for existing, but also exhort the citizenry to remember the satisfaction of plucking a plum on one’s way to the Cathedral, or to think of the delight that comes with knowing that full shade lies just ahead on one of our sultry summer days that will come.
Furthermore, we are an agricultural people and we believe that our village should represent the best of every part of what our region has to offer. Think of having a satsuma on Saint Ann or a pecan on Barracks. What is more appropriate for the old city?
It is true that many fruit trees leave debris that can be distasteful to those with the most gossamer of sensibilities, but for those without the passion for picking, ask your nearest restaurant if they would like the choicest fruit. When you find that intelligent chef, simply allow his most industrious staff person in to pick and find your favorite dessert made with your offering waiting for you when you go in to dine. Or toss the key down to the pie lady and offer her the prize. If no one takes your offer, have a party at harvest season and watch the fruit disappear along with your liquor!

She then walked with me down to her courtyard. She pointed out her favorites with her cane as she called some of their Latin and some by their New Orleans or everyday names: her beautiful Fortunella japonica, Citrus reticulata (she had been the one to introduce me to this favorite of mine actually), her Eribotrya japonica, (almost 20 feet high), her Fiddle-Leaf Figs, her bananas (edible and tasty I can vouch for that), her old Ficus elastica (she murmured it was related to the St. Mary tree knowing it would comfort my loss), pomegranate shrubs, and her Sago Palm and various others palms that I only barely recognized, all as gnarled as her cane. With the lights strung between, and with her climbing roses, larkspur, butterfly weed, bougainvillea, narcisissus, butterfly lilies, camelias (like few people had seen in generations), jessamine, red hibiscus, four-o-clocks in every color, it bloomed year-round and smelled–
well it smelled of New Orleans, really.

Ursuline Convent rubber tree circa 2009