“Vanishing Acts” at the Morton Arboretum
When you hear the words endangered trees, what do you think of? The rain forest? Think again. About 10 percent of all tree species are threatened—including trees once plentiful in the Chicago area. The Morton Arboretum created “Vanishing Acts,” a traveling exhibition of text panels (lovingly placed in the outdoor conifer area) that educates folks on disappearing trees. Read on for three threatened trees chronicled in the exhibit, and what you can do to help them.
FRASER FIR VULNERABLE
Why it’s threatened You know this tree. Maybe you’ve cut one down, tied stuff onto it and danced around it. Give up? It’s a classic Christmas tree. Northern Illinois farms cultivate this species—but in the wild, more than 90 percent of these trees have died off. Partly due to global warming’s weather conditions, insects called adelgids thrive and destroy fir forests.
What you can do to help Those little things you do to shrink your carbon footprint? Trees know when you’re doing them. “We often feel daunted when we hear about the environment,” says Anamari Dorgan, head of the arboretum’s visitors experience. “But in reality, there are steps in our daily lives that cumulatively will make a difference, [such as] reusing bags when shopping.”
DAWN REDWOOD ENDANGERED
Why it’s threatened About a bajillion years ago, this tree covered North America. We know that because folks in Montana discovered Mesozoic-era fossils imprinted with the trees’ delicate, flat leaves. Today, all 1,000 of the surviving wild dawn redwoods live in China. They face deforestation and seed depletion; people poach the seeds in order to cultivate dawn redwoods, special plants in the Chinese culture.
What you can do to help Plant an endangered tree. (Yeah, we never considered that, either. Duh.) “Not all endangered trees are in the tropical rain forests,” Dorgan reiterates. “There are trees in every climate zone that face threats.”
ANHUI ELM ENDANGERED
Why it’s threatened Because only about 30 Anhui elms exist in the wild, any threat to its habitat—the mountainous Anhui region of China—could wipe out the species. But, unlike the common American elm, this tree is immune to Dutch elm disease (a nasty fungus that still threatens tree-lined parkways). That makes the Anhui elm especially helpful in finding a cure for the beetle-spread ailment.
What you can do to help Support arboretums, which staff scientists who work to find solutions for tree diseases. This may not sound as cuddly as saving panda bears (“They have the advantage of being animated,” Dorgan says), but saving trees can directly affect your community.
“Vanishing Acts” runs through September 2012.