With apologies to the renowned poet Joyce Kilmer, I too think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. There may be justifiable reasons for totally eradicating a certain variety of these living organisms, but in at least one case I have my doubts.
Having grown up on the high plains of east-central Colorado at Calhan (alt. 6,507 ft. vs. Longmont’s 4,979 ft.) and not being an arborist, I can only cite my experiences. In that region it was difficult to grow almost any kind of a deciduous tree, especially out on the open prairie, because of the soil condition (mostly adobe), scarce moisture with a lack of live water, and little or no irrigation. Evergreens thrived in the rocky hills to the northwest of Calhan in the Black Forest. But out on the prairie the most likely to adapt were deciduous trees, notably the Cottonwood, which in comparison is truly a water guzzler, the Chinese Elm, and the Russian Olive. Fruit trees and most hardwoods were scarce. Hardy buffalo grass, chokecherry and lilac shrubs, soap weeds and pear cacti rounded out the greenery.
In defense of the lowly Russian Olive tree, Elaeagnus angustifolia, which the U.S.D.A. 50 years ago recommended for planting but later declared it a noxious weed and ordered its eradication, most of the farmers and ranchers that I remember let it grow because it provided not only cover and sustenance for birds and wild animals, but shade and often windbreak for domestic animals as well. In the rare riparian areas, its roots helped knit the precious topsoil to keep it from washing away when the rains did come. Like some varieties of locust trees, the Russian Olive does produce thorny limbs.
But that unpleasant feature can be forgiven for the beautiful silvery leaves it produces which offer an interesting contrast when mixed among other tree varieties, as currently seen in the grove along the east side of Highway 42 just north of Baseline Road in Lafayette, at the old Beauprez dairy farm. Those beautiful Russian Olives have been there a long time without spreading.
It would be a shame to deliberately kill those trees “because they’re weeds,” and I’m sorry to see our Longmont and Boulder County open-space authorities engaging in this senseless war against a tree that has gotten a bum rap. Let them live , , , for only God can make a tree.