Archived Story

Every root tells a story

Published 9:59am Tuesday, July 30, 2013

As a kid, one of the perks of the fall season was anticipating one of the trees in my front yard, a Gingko tree that would coat the yard with beautiful, bright yellow, fan-shaped leaves.

The leaves were unique and the tree was beautiful but there was one small problem. Along with the beautiful yellow leaves came purple Ginkgo seeds that would emit a foul odor as they dropped to the ground. My family knew that along with the beauty of the tree also came the difficulty of dealing with the smell and having to dodge the seeds when walking through our yard. We would watch with great delight from the window as the mailman would dodge the seeds to prevent them from sticking to his shoe along with motorists passing by who would stop to find out what the seeds were (some would eat them) and come knock on our door to ask if they could have some.

Although the seeds have an unpleasant odor, they are common on female Gingko trees and the seeds are considered when boiled a delicacy in Japan and China. Throughout the years our tree has been photographed, people have called to request some of the seeds and it has provided an element of enjoyment for my family as we learned to embrace the beauty of the yellow leaves with the horrific smell attached to the seeds.

This past week I had the opportunity to meet Lois Sparks, a Clanton woman who planted a Century Plant in her front yard. When Sparks planted the plant with her son Terry in 2005, she had no idea it would grow to be 33 feet tall and bloom during her lifetime.

The common idea with this particular type of plant is it will only bloom once every 100 years, although the plant can bloom after 10-30 years.

After talking with Sparks and photographing her plant, she made the comment, “Everyone wants to know about my plant.”

Although some might scoff and question the attention given to a plant/tree, the reality is some trees and plants tell a story.

In the case of the Century Plant, Lois and her son Terry planted it with “loving care and two buckets of dirt.” When Terry unexpectedly passed away in January, Lois was left with her memories of Terry and the Century Plant she hoped would bloom.

Now, the plant with unique yellow blooms towers above Sparks’ home and the last few weeks she has met numerous people stopping by or calling to find out the story surrounding the plant.

In a few months the fall season will arrive and the yellow leaves will coat my parent’s yard with the same beauty that has come each year since I was a child and in a few weeks Sparks will tear down her plant and plant one of the seeds in hopes another Century Plant will grow.

Although Sparks has no guarantee the plant will bloom, her hope is it will and when it does, others will be able to enjoy the unique beauty of the blooms and more importantly, the story.

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