Ever heard of the Emerald Coast? |
The moniker was lavished on the Mississippi Coast in earlier times, literally because of the trees and specifically because of the Live oaks that remain green year-round. The oaks are the centenarians among us.
The title is credited to Jules Verelst, a world traveler from Rio de Janeiro who visited the Coast in the 1920s. Earlier, in the late 1800s, the Green Coast was sometimes used to describe the lush greenness observed by writers since the French landed in 1699.
Noted the French in their first journals: "The trees here are very fine."
At the 300th birthday for the founding of this region, more than 600 Live oaks were planted to help replace those lost to storms and the bulldozers of progress.
Katrina claimed some of those new trees because they did not yet have the root systems of their venerable relatives, many several hundred years old. Katrina also claimed older oaks found in neighborhoods and along roadways.
At the least, the high winds stripped the trees of leaves, and near the beach, the surge soaked the roots with salt. That, followed by several dry months, taxed the remaining oaks. Many are showing signs of life, small green leaves, and spring will bring a hint at how they will fare.
Meanwhile, not leaving all to fate, concerned organizations and agencies - the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and the National Arbor Day Foundation, among them - have rallied support to save existing heritage trees or to replant new ones.
"Saving the trees is vital for our environmental, economic and emotional recovery," said Land Trust Executive Director Judy Steckler, when announcing a program known as Live Oak Rescue Mission.
"Trees are basically what make the Coast unique and beautiful. If we don't have those beautiful stately oaks, the Coast will become like any other place."
- KAT BERGERON