Trees, like people, have a story, even a history related to ancestors and their place of origin.
For people, we call it a biography. It’s how events and inter-relationships with the world affect one’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual nature. Collectively these elements form a person’s unique character.
The strawberry tree on Carolan Avenue has its own biography, if you stand close and listen with all of your senses.
Springtime sun filtering through the evergreen foliage highlighted the rusty cinnamon-colored bark. Up close and personal I welcomed the shade the tree provided. It was there I began to see a story woven into the trunk and branches.
The nature of a strawberry tree is more shrub-like, but with the tools of a knowledgeable arborist, this individual was reformed into the shape of a tree. Evidence of large branches remain as stumps within the trunk, which serves as a foundation of strong woven branches. Arms of trained branches extend gracefully from the trunk. They support and hold smaller and smaller branches, like hands holding a bouquet of flowers.
The pruned structure has created a new form. However, the true nature of the tree shines through the cracked and peeling bark, twisting and turning, seeking its own way to the sun.
The branches wear the scars of past wounds. Some scars appear to be abusive, intentional cuts by thoughtless youth. Others are remnants of bad luck, violent weather or the hazards of living in a city. There is beauty in the way the tree has grown new bark around each scar. It is like an embrace of life-giving energy with the nutrients the tree needs to heal itself and survive.
This strawberry tree can not hide its scars, nor can it tell about its feelings when wounded or the challenges in the healing process.
Ancestors of the strawberry tree came from regions around the Mediterranean Sea, where warm moist winters and dry summers allowed the tree the luxury of 12 months to ripen the red strawberry fruits. New flowers form in the winter months and join the ripening fruits, creating a celebration of color and fragrance.
The collection of fruits and flowers complimented by the sculptural aspect of the reddish branches makes the strawberry tree a favorite in gardens and parks around the world. And here in Burlingame, it has its own, unique story to share.