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story.lead_photo.caption The vile, putrid, malodorous, noxious fruit of the female ginkgo is the reason Little Rock is opting for all-male trees to replace the. distressed maples in the River Market area. Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat’s award-winning column of humorous fabrication appears every Saturday.

Dear Otus,

I dropped by Little Rock's River Market on Monday to grab some lunch and was startled to see that a young woman had chained herself to a maple tree on President Clinton Avenue. She was surrounded by three mounted patrol officers and a couple of cops on bicycles.

I had to get back to work, so I didn't have time to find out what that was all about.

-- Sierra Tierwater,

Little Rock

Dear Sierra,

It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and a further pleasure to fill you in. An informed citizenry is an enlightened citizenry and less likely to rationalize not bothering to vote, as most do not these days.

What you witnessed Monday was just the first worm wriggling out of a very large can o' worms opened by the Little Rock Planning Commission a couple of weeks ago.

That's when the commission voted to replace 56 Autumn Blaze maple trees in the downtown River Market District with ginkgo bilobas. The Autumn Blaze is a cultivar -- a hybrid created by the joining of a Silver Maple and Red Maple. Autumn Blaze does not exist in the wild and propagation is restricted under its 1982 patent.

In other words, when a tree gets sick, you're out of luck replacing it at less than confiscatory nursery prices.

Autumn Blazes have graced the River Market for about 20 years and give the area its distinctive, iconic red fall foliage that has made it a prime Master Gardener tour destination for groups as far away as Shreveport and Tulsa.

Ginkgos, suggested by the River Market design review committee, turn yellow for only a few days each fall. It is, however, a hardy ancient tree native to China and has been found in fossils dating back 270 million years.

Ginkgos are also notoriously dioecious, and that's the source of another problem (see below).

Why replace the existing maples? It turns out the high-strung cultivars, normally found in secluded sylvan glades and pampered residential backyards, have become distressed and even misophonic by downtown life with its automobile exhaust, busloads of cacophonous schoolchildren and raucous lunchtime trolley crowds.

During April and May, Little Rock Parks and Recreation attempted to save the maples by using the proven solution of piping soothing music to the trees during overnight hours. It was the same mixtape of John Mayer, Josh Groban and Kenny G tunes interspersed with Gregorian chants that cured a similar problem in Memphis' Mississippi River Park. It had little effect here.

The musical solution having failed, Parks and Recreation is proceeding with plans to dig up all the maples -- healthy as well as stressed -- along President Clinton Avenue. Once they begin, the process will take about 10 days to complete.

However, there are a couple of hurdles to clear and you witnessed the first on Monday.

That was Little Rock militant environmental eco-activist Julia "Luna Moth" Lorrraine who chained herself to the tree. She was protesting the waste of the many perfectly fine maple trees that are not in distress and demanding they be offered up for adoption by local nemophilists, dendrophiles or simply concerned citizens.

Bolt cutters were used to remove Lorraine and she was charged with misdemeanor public obfuscation and bloviation, neglecting to apply for a permit and egregious use of non sequitors by certain persons.

Lorraine said her next step would be to join the class action lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas asking for a declaratory judgment for a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief on replacing the maples with ginkgos.

Also joining the lawsuit (the rest of the can o' worms) were a dozen masked members of SAD (Sisters Against Dioecious), who were up in arms because the city plans to plant only male ginkgos, saying that the squishy yellow fruit of the female ginkgo (see photo) contains butyric acid and stinks like rancid butter when it falls.

A SAD spokesperson said Little Rock was guilty of (1) maple ageism and (2) arboreal sexism at its most egregious and she's shocked the city did not perform its due diligence before settling on all-male ginkgos.

Until next time, Kalaka reminds you that maples are cute when they're small, but never make good houseplants.


Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat's award-winning column of humorous fabrication

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HomeStyle on 07/28/2018

Print Headline: Plan to lose River Market maples stirs brouhaha

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