Botanic Notables: The Cypress Guitar

Botanic Notables: The Cypress Guitar

February 16, 2008
Photo by: Maria Emilia Perez

Plucked or planted, our trees and flowers often speak for us when we cannot. A posy for the sweetheart, a laurel for the victor, a garland for the dead—they are quiet articulations of love, hope, and mourning. This is the language of plants, and it is worth remembering for those flying over Argentina's pampas plains, for it explains an odd vision in the monotonous topography. The blue-and-green guitar is two-thirds of a mile long, an enormous aberration in the uniformly-low grasslands. Landscaped entirely out of trees, the instrument is one farmer's love letter to his late wife, a young woman who loved the guitar.

Pedro Martin Ureta planted the guitar when his wife, Graciela, died in 1977, but the notion was entirely hers. After flying over a pampas swatch that resembled a milk pail, Graciela suggested that they sculpt a design in their fields. She thought a guitar would be good for their family, but she died before they could cultivate the design. So her husband soon began planting a field of trees: the cypress that would become the guitar's outline, and the blue eucalyptus for the accent strings of the guitar's neck. Pedro and Graciela had four children, all of whom were enlisted in the guitar's planting. The children would stand in a row, three meters apart, to measure where the individual trees should grow. In the end, 7,000 trees were planted. Pedro and his family cultivated the orchard largely on their own; landscapers were not particularly interested in the project at the time. However, the guitar is now recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects, who consider it a notable work of land art.

If you do happen to fly over Graciela's guitar, take a picture for her husband. The farmer himself is afraid of flying, and has only seen the memorial in photographs.

Anna Laurent is a writer and producer of educational botanical media. Photographs from her forthcoming field guide to Los Angeles are available for exhibition and purchase at her website.