St. Petersburg Times Online: News of southern Pinellas County
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

For tree-planting mayor, an appropriate honor

A buttonwood tree, cloned from a giant specimen in Palm Beach County, commemorate's Mayor David Fischer's tree-growing projects.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor David Fischer was honored Friday as "St. Petersburg's Johnny Appleseed" by a group of Florida horticulturists who planted a giant buttonwood tree in his honor at Crescent Lake Park.

Members of the Champion Tree Project, an urban forestry initiative that clones the largest specimen of each tree type and plants the clones in urban areas, praised the mayor for his commitment to landscaping and tree-growing projects throughout the city. Fischer has planted more than 200,000 shrubs and 18,000 trees during his 10-year stint as mayor.

Fischer, who has morphed Herbert Hoover's slogan, "A chicken in every pot," into his own environmentally friendly mantra, "A tree on every lot," is optimistic that the tree would become a healthy addition in the park.

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago," Fischer said. "The second best time is today."

The tree planted in Fischer's honor is a 10-foot green buttonwood taken from an identical tree in Palm Beach. Buttonwoods grow only in Florida's coastal regions, and the record-breaking specimen in Palm Beach has a trunk circumference of more than 14 feet and a height of 51 feet.

Cloning a tree is not nearly as complicated or as challenging as cloning an animal. In this case, scientists pruned some branches from the parent tree and kept them moist in an Orlando mist house until the branches naturally sprouted roots. The hope is that the tree will live for hundreds of years, exactly like the one in Palm Beach.

But just because a giant tree is cloned and planted does not guarantee it will turn out identically. John Seiler, a professor of tree physiology and silviculture at Virginia Tech University, said a tree's growth is determined by its genetic makeup and by less predictable environmental factors like availability of water and protection from wind.

"You can have good genes from a gorgeous tree but if it's growing in the crack of a sidewalk, it ain't going to hack it," Seiler said.

Loren Westenberger, a local horticulturist with the Champion Tree Project, said the green buttonwood has about a "50-50" chance of becoming as big and living as long as its parent.

Fischer quickly sized up the location of the tree which is roughly 25 feet from 22nd Avenue N.

"The idea is to get as close to the curb as possible so that within five or six years it's branches will (hang) over the curb," Fischer said. "You try to get within 10 feet or less, so the edge of the sidewalk is really the perfect place."

Back to St. Petersburg area news
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Special Links
Mary Jo Melone
Howard Troxler

From the Times
South Pinellas desks
  • Voters to decide 3 issues on ballot
  • Some -- not all -- issues aired at beach forum
  • Upham's losing battle
  • Lunch price may climb in school cafeterias
  • So long, Watson's
  • Here's the scoop on fun
  • New rule would benefit truckers
  • Mercy Hospital deserves better
  • Old Coach house may become steakhouse
  • Snell Isle bank restores full service
  • Dally in alley if you love antique shops
  • Fla. Power, Treasure Island seals short deal
  • Council not eager to adopt mandate for its attendance
  • He has 'chewed rag' by ham radio since 1921
  • For tree-planting mayor, an appropriate honor
  • Sunken Gardens seeking ways to cater to children
  • Driving southern stretch of I-275? Good news, bad
  • Seriously suited crowd, (1 floral) attend symposium
  • Students learn values to conquer obstacles
  • They want big-ticket items to go to a vote
  • St. Pete Beach joins trend of cities with skate parks
  • Opinions vary on closing street near Sunken Gardens
  • DOT recommends light at Wal-Mart entrance
  • Question the candidates
  • Get ready for a long weekend of wheels
  • Chili cooks stew over upcoming contest
  • What's up on campus
  • Neighborhood briefs
  • Romano's approved for Tyrone Square
  • Treasure Island City Hall will show off new look
  • Record earns Eckerd men a second chance
  • Kroeger strikes again at Dunedin
  • Causeway Bridge repairs scheduled