Southern women are sensitive about Southern Trees. We’ve been known to tell architects they cannot add onto that side of the house because, well- it would mean cutting down a beloved tree. Against all advice to contrary, Southern women have said a tree cannot be cut down- ‘ Just build the porch around it, and you better make sure the opening in the floorboards are big enough for that tree to grow!’ Perfectly reasonable to me. Selling property in the South? The best selling points for Southern Real Estate are:
- Double Wide Mobile Home with nice wooded lot
- Lake House with great views of the lake and nice wooded lot.
- Farm has pasture land and nice wooded area surrounding the farmhouse.
If the wooded lot you’re selling has a Magnolia Tree on it, that ups the value of the property immensely. We Southern ladies don’t talk about it much – but there are women who fiercely protect their Magnolia Trees. The pitiful women who don’t have Magnolia Trees have been known to beg, borrow or steal Magnolia Leaves especially during the holidays or for special occasions– a wedding, funeral or open house. The lucky women who own Magnolia Trees have been known to get put out and even stingy with their Magnolia leaves!
I guess you could say- we’re tree proud. I made a list recently of the different types of Southern Trees we have in our yard. Dogwoods, Redbuds, Glory Bower, Red Oak, White Oak, Pin Oak, Water Oak,Hackberry, Sweetgum, Poplar, Elm and Black Walnut- Southern Yellow Pines and the darkly mysterious common Cedar Tree. My grandmother always said to get rid of Cedar Trees because ‘When a cedar tree gets tall enough to shade your grave, you’ll die’…How she knew this I’ll never know- but I believed her. My husband thinks that’s an old wives tale but he did remove a Cedar Tree because it was getting in the way of a Dogwood I wanted him to save. Bless his heart.
South Alabama has the big bearded beauties, Live Oaks- Southerners have been known to experience deep grief, especially when a Live Oak is damaged or dies. Live Oaks are the stuff movies are made of- the story has been told that a famous actress came south to do a movie and the setting was laced with Live Oaks- it was rumored the actress thought we did that just for her! We have renowned hospitality, but humans didn’t do that for her- the South is just blessed with Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss.
What we don’t tell folks who aren’t from around here- If you want to collect Spanish moss as a souvenir- before you get home you’ll have chigger bites all over! Henry Ford once had the bright idea to stuff his car cushions with the abundance of Spanish Moss found in Alabama- only to discover those pesky chiggers were a big problem. For Southern folks who are still looking up North for their valuables…they think chigger bites are a fitting punishment for thieves who try to confiscate our Spanish Moss!
Southern women are more apt to forgive our Trees of their shortcomings than we are of other infractions that come our way. We never forgive Hurricanes- male or female- for taking down our Southern Trees. Frederick, Rita, Ivan, and that hateful girl Katrina, we will never forgive you.
Yet if our Southern Tree roots break up a driveway or a sidewalk, well- ancestors have been known to break up and make things interesting too. It’s part of who we are- our roots are important. We make the necessary adjustments. If a tree grows crooked, lays an arm on the grass or we have to make a path skirt around a family tree- that’s what you do for your folks. You make allowances, you put up with a bit of a mess- pesky squirrels, tassles, colorful fallen leaves, prickly cones, burrs and bonafide Nuts. Southern Trees are like eccentric relatives, colorful kinfolks and outright Nuts- they’re the stuff our legends are made of
Some trees are clannish–
- Pines stand together swaying and whispering
- Dogwoods clump together in their lacy dresses like Sorority Girls
- Redbuds circle up- conspiring to bloom where they are planted. Stubborn enough to bloom for just a brief few weeks in the Spring.
We love our trees. Southern trees bloom, Shade us from the hot summer sunshine, Spread their branches to cradle nests while the squirrels are acting like nuts. Hickory trees give their lives so we can have that pit barbeque we so love. Trees let us hang a swing or spread out quilts for a snooze, a picnic or a family photograph. We’re as tree proud as any folks I know. Our roots spread out and run deep. We like it that way, nuts, squirrels, skeeters, chiggers and all.
Love y’all, Camellia
Thanks to Jeremy Miniard for the photographs of beautiful homeplaces in Alabama. Thanks to Denis for her photographs of the hauntingly beautiful Live Oaks.