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Growing trees in Minonk

Published April 10, 2003 by David Uphoff

Trees by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Trees are a tremendous asset to a community, especially a community like Minonk that is surrounded by a barren prairie. Before the white man settled the prairie, the only places where trees would grow was near water. Prairie fires destroyed tree seedlings that were not near water. When the Minonk area was originally settled there were very few trees. The lack of trees caused many settlers to keep moving west because they felt the lack of trees meant that the soil was not any good.

As Minonk grew, people from the East and from Europe planted trees not only to provide shade for protection from the heat of summer but also to provide beauty and comfort to a harsh environment. Farmers planted miles of Osage Orange trees, commonly known as hedge trees, to serve as fence barriers to keep cattle enclosed and also to help prevent soil erosion. Today with large scale farming and the elimination of cattle, most of the hedge trees have been dug up. Large stands of Cottonwood trees were also planted because they were native to the area and easy to transplant growing near the creeks and riverbeds that were protected from the prairie fires. Today the cottonwood is not planted because of its huge size making it vulnerable to lightning strikes and also because of the cotton buds that litter the area around the tree in the summer.

By far the most popular tree planted in Minonk when it was established was the American Elm tree. It was a huge stately tree with a vase type form. Its enormous limbs would stretch out over the streets to form a cathedral type canopy over the streets of Minonk. The American Elm tree grew fast and provide quick shade for the barren environment. Unfortunately, in the 1950's the Dutch Elm Disease was imported from Europe and quickly spread among the American Elm killing millions of trees in its wake. Today there are hardly any American Elm trees left in the Minonk area. There are now some new disease resistant American Elm trees developed that you can order from online nurseries. The Princeton Elm is one of the few native American Elm trees that are disease resistant.

The lesson learned from the American Elm tree disaster was to plant a variety of trees and not to depend so much on one tree. Unfortunately, many people planted the fast growing Chinese Elm tree to replace the American Elm. This tree proved to be short-lived and also lost many branches during windstorms and proved to be a dirty and unsightly tree as it aged.

After a life time of planting trees in the Minonk area, I learned which trees are suitable for this climate. The trees that I recommend are broken into the following classifications: Deciduous or shade trees, Evergreen trees, and ornamental trees. Click on one of the categories below to learn more about the trees in the category.

Deciduous or shade trees

Evergreen trees

Ornamental trees