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A sad but necessary goodbye

May 4, 2023
By Marcy Shortuse

You’re not going to like what we’re about to say, but you knew it was coming. The Community Tree across from Hudson’s Grocery will be coming down soon, as Hurricane Ian apparently put a final nail in its coffin.

We’ve all watched it, hoping for one green leaf to prove that life was still going to go on for the old cedar, planted right around 1954 by the Boca Grande Woman’s Club. But none have appeared, leading the Club to have to make a sad, and very difficult, decision. The tree must come down. 

Woman’s Club Member Susan Bowers is part of the committee that is planning the next steps in the tree’s last days, as well as the new tree that will replace the old one. She said that once the cedar tree is taken out, slabs from the trunk will be saved for a future project. Leonardo Garcia from Hazeltine will be performing the job. He promises to be gentle with the old lady.

The old lady will be replaced with a Shady Lady, also known as a black olive tree. It is native to Central and South America but grows very well in South Florida.

 It is described as having a bit of a bonsai look and, according to the South Florida Plant Guide, the tree lends an Oriental garden appeal when it’s young. Each of these trees is unique and grows differently. 

After its Oriental garden youth, a young tree may develop a somewhat funky appearance. The foliage often grows into an irregular oval shape, with tops or shoots going out in odd directions.

The Shady Lady is salt-tolerant and displays small yellow flowers in the spring. It will be reactive to heavy frost, so we’ll have to hope for warmer winters.

In December of 1954 Nell Kuhl, with a little help, dug up our current tree from the Community House grounds and had it moved to where it forlornly stands now, at what was then known as the “Seaboard Railway Station.” 

In the Friday, Dec. 24, 1954 edition of the Fort Myers News-Press, the news clip read:

“A brilliantly lighted 30-foot Christmas tree will be the center of attraction for Boca Grande, as the community gathers each evening to sing Christmas carols. 

“Florida Power and Light company has furnished the materials and equipment for lighting the tree. The fire department turned out to string the lights.

“The tree was dedicated to the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ and presented to the community by Mrs. Madelene A. Smith, president of the Woman’s Club.

“The Club raised the funds for having it transplanted and purchasing the lights. School children, under the direction of Mrs. Paul Bylaska, presented a program of Christmas carols.”

The new tree will also have additional features, such as an irrigation system, to help it along in the dry winter months. 

The old tree is scheduled to be removed on May 15, and the new tree is supposed to be planted May 16. We will give you more details as we get them.