Last month, a fire destroyed an ancient tree in central Florida. At 3,500 years old, the Senator was one of the oldest bald cypress trees in the world, and, at 118 feet, one of the tallest east of the Mississippi. The tree was already 3,000 years old when Ponce de Leon named the land La Florida and it was a popular tourist attraction long before Walt Disney built his theme parks.
A forest of Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) trees once grew on California's Central Coast. Oddly enough, the tree grows better just about anywhere other than here, its native habitat—a coastal area where a rocky terrain is difficult for root growth and Pacific Ocean salt and wind are a constant assault. Today, there are only a handful of Monterey Cypresses on the California Coast, most of which are confined to two small populations that are protected within Point Lobos State Reserve and Del Monte Forest.
Saint Francis of Assisi is surrounded with stories of his legendary sway over nature: the spellbound birds, the tamed wolf, the obeisant fish. That's not all—the people of Rimini, Italy, will tell you that the patron saint of animals and ecology also spoke to the trees—at least, to a cypress tree (Cupressus sempervirens) that grows in the hilltop city of Verucchio. It is 800 years old—one of the oldest cypress trees in Europe—and, it is said, improbably grown by Saint Francis himself. Today, the ancient cypress still stands in the cloister that emerged around the tree.
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.