The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Along main avenues in many parts of our country, where the streets are wide and divided, local communities plant whatever is local and therefore usually tough and reliable, in the median areas which divide the lanes. 

Today while we were running errands in an area unfamiliar to us, I was particularly impressed and delighted to see, thriving in the median, several small mesquite trees.  Now for those unfamiliar with these plants, mesquite trees don’t grow exceptionally large, anyway.  And many who are familiar with mesquite trees quite despise them.  They have thorns that probably inspired cowboys to wear chaps to protect their legs from being raked when chasing a cow out of a mesquite patch (I always wondered what protected the poor horses).  Mesquites survive because they put down deep tap roots, which some think dry out the land too much (although this isn't proven).  On the other hand, it is said that just about every part of a mesquite tree can be used:  the leaves and bean pods have been used in past times for medicine and food; where there is nothing else around, the mesquites provide a bit of shade; the flowers attract bees and their nectar is said to make very special honey; and the wood is beautiful and tough enough to give woodworkers' chain saws a run for their money.  I read somewhere that mesquite thorns were used by early Native Americans as needles.  And after all that, mesquite wood is considered gourmet for grilling meats.

And while all that is nice, I like mesquites because I think they are lovely.  Even in the summer, and in stupefying heat, the lacy green leaves are deceptively delicate and fresh-looking.  Yet as we have driven around our area I have seen whole stands of mesquite paved over for parking lots or housing developments or all the other elements of progress in our world today.  I have often fantasized about becoming magically wealthy and buying an area containing mesquite and just keeping it all natural.  So it is understandable that when I saw those mesquite trees, preserved in the median for now, as if they were precious ornamentals, I thought, “Well, it’s about time.”

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