Monday, May 05, 2008

Lilac Quandary

I haven't been reporting all of my Project Budburst phenological observations here, as I know everyone does not share my botanical obsessions, but the lilacs are pretty enough to warrant a photo. Despite the lovely and rather unusual hue, our lilac bush doesn't seem too terribly thrilled. As you can see, there are just a few blossoms in the cluster open, and we never get more than three or four racemes worth of flowers. Other lilacs in my neighborhood are just laden, sagging under the weight of their own fertility. Perhaps my backyard simply doesn't get enough sun? I don't know, but I enjoy them all the same.

I have another lilac quandary to ask you all about. I took an unusual route home from work today, detouring through the old neighborhood to pick up catfish burritos for our anniversary dinner. The lilacs in Stormwater Park are in full bloom, but I was horrified to see a woman boldly cutting a herself a bouquet in a broad daylight. I was so enraged I almost stopped to confront her, but then I started to wonder if that would be justified. See... on occasion it has come to my attention that a truth I thought was gospel is not widely held. For example, I was brought up indoctrinated that turning around in a private driveway is rude, that one should always use a public roadway. I have since learned from SodaBoy, friends, and co-workers alike that no one else but my family, apparently, subscribes to that particular theory.

So back to the lilacs in the park... Stormwater Park is a city park, paid for with taxpayer dollars, for the public to enjoy. I view those lilacs as being there for the public benefit; I see cutting them for private use as downright thievery. However, I doubt the woman doing the cutting sees it that way, as she wasn't being the least bit furtive. She probably also views the lilacs as a public resource, there for anyone to take and enjoy as they please. Does that old park mantra, take only photographs, leave only footprints only apply to national parks? Or should state and county parks enjoy the same protections? Or is it only natural areas that deserve respect, leaving my humble city park free for the hacking? What do you think?


Hugh said...

BerryBird, Forgive me for falling into story mode, but your post so reminded me of something that happened to me about a decade ago when I was a parks worker in Vancouver. It went something like this:

I came upon a woman cutting the flower-bearing branches of a lakeside willow and stuffing them into a plastic bag. I said, "I’m sorry, this is a park. It’s illegal to harvest plants in a park."

"Harvest?" said the woman.

"Cut, pick, remove," I said. "You are not allowed to remove plants or plant parts from a park."

The woman said, "But these are not plants. See? They‘re made of wood." She showed me the cut end of a branch. "They’re pussy willows."

I said, "A woody plant is still a plant. Anything with flowers is definitely a plant."

The woman stared into her bag, then held it open for me to see. "There’s no flowers in here," she said.

I ran my finger along one of the protruding branches, touching the furry willow flower heads. "What do you think these are?"

"They‘re pussy willows," she said. "They’re not flowers."

"Well, whatever they are, you're not allowed to take them," I said.

At this, the woman became indignant. She said, "I certainly can. Whose tax dollars do you think paid for them?"

P.S. Our lilacs are not flowering yet.

Nadine said...

a) It is most definitely unacceptable for her to be cutting flowers from anywhere other than her own damn yard.

b) I find it terribly rude when people turn around in my driveway. I try never to do that to others.

Debbie in NC said...

You are not alone with your convictions I see..and I'm agreeing with you too! This is a small sampling of what's wrong in this world today. Maybe us bloggers should bring back common courtesy, manners and respect for other people!

jo(e) said...

I don't know. Normally, I wouldn't take flowers out of a park, but lilacs last such a short time -- and it doesn't hurt the bushes to take some flowers.

So if I saw someone taking some lilacs in a park -- or in my front yard, for that matter -- it wouldn't make me angry. It might not be something I'd do, but it wouldn't bother me.

jo(e) said...

Oh, and I live right near the "NO OUTLET" sign on our deadend road.

So people turn around in my driveway ALL THE TIME. I'll hear it during the day -- the sound of tires on gravel.

It doesn't bother me.

BerryBird said...

Hugh, your encounter with the woman cutting pussy willows just boggles me. I almost think she must have been playing dumb, because it is unfathomable that she could really think a willow isn't a plant.

Jo(e), I don't mind when people turn around in my driveway, at least not in the summer--I will confess to not liking my snow driven on before I shovel. I do find it a little odd, though, as I am no further than 7 houses from a public intersection in either direction. Being on a dead end street, I can see that you'd quickly grow accustomed to it. I will go out of my way to avoid turning in other peoples' driveways though--old habits die hard, I guess. You are certainly right that cutting a few lilac flowers won't hurt the bush. It is a very slippery slope though. If just a fraction of the people who visit that park cut lilacs, there would be none left for everyone else to enjoy.

Aliki2006 said...

I wouldn't cut flowers from a public bush, mainly because the flowers are there for all to see, and cutting them for my own purposes seems a little selfish.

I sometimes turn around in other people's driveways, but I always feel a tinge of wrongdoing when I do...

Electronic Goose said...

Leave only footprints! I even have a T-shirt that says that.

elenajoyce said...

Whose lilacs to enjoy?

Everyone's lilacs to enjoy!

Not "I want these, so I'm gonna take 'em!" lilacs!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I think it is STEALING, illegal, immoral, and hurts the trees--of course it hurts them, you're removing part of the tree! Breaking or cutting the branches.

Yesterday, I was very distressed while out riding my bike to see a woman cutting lilacs FROM SOMEONE ELSE'S yard! She was parked at the side of the road and cutting them in plain sight as if it were OK to do so--she obviously thought so.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I've heard Hugh's story before in many guises having to do with plants, animals, fishing, poaching etc, since I used to work in a nature preserve. People would come and DIG LEEKS and worse yet, ginseng, and gather trilliums, etc. They thought they had a right in spite of the signs. Now they poach them more secretively, but they still do it. (Some of them).

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Oh, and on the subject of common courtesy . . . that should definitely be restored.

How about politely letting people know when you ride up behind them on a bike instead of nearly running them over and scaring them half to death?

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

There were so many lilacs in flower at Cranbrook that it smelled like a lilac perfume factory!

Melissa said...

I think I'm with Joe on this one...I wouldn't do it, but I don't think I'd be angry or confront the person either. It's a good question, though!

maggiemahar said...

Much depends on how well-tended the park is.

Lilacs need to be pruned immediately after blooming-- cutting some flowers is one way to do this.
(This also benefit from being "dead-headed" when blooms fade. Again, cutting some flowers accomplishes this.

If your local parks dept. has the money to hire people to prune the lilacs, that's great.

If not, this lady was actually helping the plant. (I sometimes dead-head faded roses on bushes in parks--just to help them out.)

It's quite possible that she knows something about lilacs and thought she was helping them. (Which would explain why she wasn't furtive.)

I wouldn't mind someone turning in my driveway-- it is often safer than trying to turn on a busy country road/highway.