Tree Height in the News



Michigan's just-right trees – red maple and butternut

It's not every day that plants are playas in presidential politics, so let's pause to enjoy the spotlight shone on  trees by Mitt Romney, who explained his love of Michigan this way – "The trees are the right height" – before going moving on to the subject of cars. 

Now before dismissing this as a one-off idea that came to him suddenly and will never be repeated (because sadly, his profession of tree-height love has drawn ridicule), it's a statement he's made before that, and since.  (Source.)

So what IS the right height for trees?  WaPo's Al Kamen (a Midwesterner and old beau of this blogger) helps:

The region’s red maples (40 feet at maturity) and butternuts (50 feet) — in contrast to the West Coast’s ultra-imposing redwoods or the South’s live oaks or the iconic Southern magnolia — are somehow gentler and feel a bit more accessible. And the fall colors, well, goes without saying.

 Soooo, they're gentle, not ultra-imposing like those West Coasters.  Yeah, who could love a redwood?

But here it gets complicated.  Diligent journalists have investigated Romney's relationship with trees and come up with one of those flip-flops they love to bash him for:  he may love trees now but he once punched one.  Punching a tree being something that Michiganders do when they need to blow off steam?   

All this tree talk has  inspired one comedy writer to speak up for the trees, many of whom may be suddenly feeling bad about their own heights, not being Michigan trees and all.  From A Tree Responds  

I am an ordinary, God and lightning fearing arboreal-American. I did not choose to be this height, it is simply what I grew to. I could no more consciously change my height than you could deliberately change your sexual preference…

Speaking for America's 800 million trees — minus, of course, Michigan's six million perfectly-sized ones — I urge you to consider your words more carefully in the future. We may not be voters, we may not be human, we may not even be what you would call sentient, but we have sap, we have bark, and we have feelings. I may not be the "right" height but my roots are long enough to reach the ground, and that's good enough for me.

I am deciduous oak and I approve this message.

Moving on to whole other plant group, it's not just trees that are right in Michigan – it's the grass, too!  Here's what Romney said last November:

I love being in Michigan. Everything seems right here. You know, I come back to Michigan; the trees are the right height. The grass is the right color for this time of year, kind of a brownish-greenish sort of thing. It just feels right.
Great!  He actually likes it that grass turns "brownish"!  I think he's ready to join the LawIMG_3319n Reform gang.

Honestly, all this plant talk is making me kinda like the guy.

More lovable plant in your state?
I can't help but wonder if I were campaigning in Maryland, what I'd proclaim my love for, Maryland-wise and plant-wise.  I'd probably offer up the state flower, the cheerful Black-eyed Susan.  Not sure if that's a vote-getter, but it's all I've got.

Photo credits:  Butternut tree, red maple.


  1. Thanks for making me laugh, Susan.

    Okay, maybe I gotta like Romney a little bit now, too. He’s clearly got some feeling for nature.

    And I know what he means. I spent last weekend in Washington County, NY. Everything is just right there, like nowhere else in the world.

  2. It’s called your childhood home, everything seems just right. I call Indiana home and since it once had 5.6 million acres of wetland (down to 813,000 today), I declare my love for Indiana wetland plants. I love the 120 species that are endangered, threatened, or rare, such as yellow fringed orched, to the exotic carnivorous pitcher plant, to the common blue flags. Aside: Indiana has more native orchids than Hawaii.

  3. Well, I always did like Romney (okay, I like him better than his GOP opponents, which isn’t really saying much). I guy who likes trees and brownish-green grass at the right time of the year can’t be too bad, hmm ?

    I, too, understand how your childhood home just feels right. The grass and trees and birdsong and creeks and weather all feels like part of me. Twenty years away and each visit back to the place that hosted my youthful wanderings makes me wonder why I felt the need to leave. Until I voice an opinion that is decidedly less in line with that of my old friends, and I remember why it’s easier to be from there than it is to be there.

  4. For days I’ve been defending Romney on the tree height issue, mostly on same grounds mentioned above: some environments simply “just feel right.” It didn’t occur to me, however, that the very act of mentioning living things reveals a person who is in some touch with the outdoors and that’s a good thing in anyone, including a politician. Oh, don’t get me wrong. His views on trees won’t snag my vote, and I think he’s fully capable of exploiting the environment he admires, but then who of us isn’t guilty of that?

  5. I wouldn’t be so sure about his “feelings for nature” Michele. He may not have said it but I bet what he was thinking was “just the right height for chopping down”.

  6. What I want to know is, in which states are trees the wrong height? And what are the implications if Michigan is the only state where trees are correctly sized? Sounds like an untenable situation. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house surrounded by weirdly sized trees cannot stand.”

    As for my state’s most lovable plant, I would vote for the bur oak.

  7. I’ve never been around a butternut, and I don’t recall any scent associated with non-sugar maple trees (and I’ve never been around sugar maples at any season, so there), but oh, the scent of redwood forest! It is the incense in Nature’s Cathedral, and the Cathedral was never built by humans, but by Muir’s “Master Builder”. I found this quote from his works that pretty much explains how I feel:

    A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.

    My religion doesn’t tend to building temples where a congregation meets inside–our temples are like Muir’s, outside so that we can commune with nature (those of us who are not “at two with nature”, as Dorothy Parker claimed to be) and the cycle of life and the seasons.

  8. Wow, I missed this one! (Really trying not to watch the latest on Republicans.) Having a politician–or anyone in the public eye– mention plants is something of a milestone, isn’t it?

    I think each of us has a “right place”/home bioregion, but after years in Colorado, I found my familiar upstate NY home to be somehow “wrong”– too green, startlingly green! And I’m with Muir (love the quote, thanks!): my most religious experience ever was in a redwood grove.

  9. I love the forests of Northern Ontario. The ferns, mosses, native orchids, rocks, and of course trees. It feels like you are on the set of Lord of the Rings.

  10. I love Garden Rant. Everyone seems right here. You know, I come back to Garden Rant. The posts are always the right length. The font is just the right color for my blurry vision, kind of a light-blackish kind of thing. It just reads right.

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