One of my favorite children’s books is The Lorax written by Dr. Seuss. “It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax is the titular character, who “speaks for the trees” and confronts the Once-ler, who causes environmental degradation” (Wikipedia). The story goes on, in great detail, of a little boy who pays the Once-ler to hear the legend of how the Lorax was taken away. A one-time beautiful valley containing a forest of Truffula trees, these uniquely stunning trees were egregiously harvested for their silk-like foliage to produce a Thneed, a versatile garment.
Fabled Truffula trees are evergreen that supposedly grow 25 meters tall and look like huge, colorful, cotton candy swirls on stems. They grow on standard, one stem growing to the ground, free of sideshoots and laterals up to a certain point, with a bushy, balanced head on top. Complete with yellow or white-and-black striped bark, their large tuft, at the top, seemed purposed and prized, to the Once-ler, for the manufacturing of Thneeds. Typical tuft colors are a warm red, orange, yellow or pink/purple, and apparently give off a buttery milk scent. “According to the Lorax, it takes ten months for a seed to germinate, ten years to sprout into a sapling, and another ten years for the tree to become fully grown” (seuss.fandom.com/wiki/Truffula_Tree). Truffula trees also bear a fruit resembling grapes, the primary diet of the Bar-ba-loots. All of this is great fun to read and even better when customers find a tree and reference it to the famed Truffula tree.
This past spring an energetic family came into our garden center and had their sights set on buying a new tree for their yard. Liz, Matt, Jake and Noah, almost collectively, came across a tree and shouted, “look at the Truffula tree.” In reality, not Dr. Seuss’s imagination, the Wagner’s became enamored with a Fullmoon maple, Acer japonicum ‘Rising Sun.’ One of those stunning maples, an Iseli Nursery introduction, with uncommonly large, heavily textured leaves-up to 8 inches across. Large lobed, palmate, green leaves are highly ornamental and tropical in appearance. This detail has always held my attention and clearly grabbed this family’s as well. After my initial greeting and offer to help them find the perfect tree, it quickly became clear they had found it themselves. ‘Rising Sun’s’ vigorous, multi-branched habit has sturdy limbs, reaches an appreciable size of 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide and enjoys sun to partial shade. Any time you can offer larger leaf maple types full sun in the morning and some protection from hot afternoon sun, the tree will usually repay you with strong growth and breathtaking fall color. ‘Rising Sun’s’ blazing, autumnal show of red, yellow, and orange is a real showstopper. These vibrant colors will, no doubt, mimic the hues of Dr. Seuss’s evergreens, conjuring up literary images for the Wagner’s. Hardy in zone 5, Fullmoon maple has a broad, upright garden footprint and you should expect about 12 inches a year in growth too. Best times to prune this maple are in late summer/early fall or at the end of winter to avoid excessive “bleeding” of sap. Truly a wonderful specimen in the suburbs, avoid using this tree where there is excessive urban pollution.
Truffula trees, before being harvested to extinction, were only found in Dr. Seuss’s imaginary Truffula Valley. In the end, “as his buildings fall apart around him, the Once-ler at last realizes out loud what the Lorax meant: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” It’s the word “UNLESS” engraved on a small monument where the Lorax last stood that has the Once-ler perplexed, for years, in solitude and self-imposed exile. Meeting this young family, offering up advice and the attributes of their new found tree has me hopeful. The fact that a new generation was genuinely excited about their new tree was one thing. But to have them all reference a favorite fable of mine, concerned with the dangers that corporate greed can pose to nature, addressing industrial, environmental and economic issues was significant. Young Jake and Noah have me hopeful that a new generation will embrace gardening and appreciate all that nature affords us.