A tree of hope

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By Maggie
Lawrence
Special to the
Opelika Observer

Hope. It takes all forms. When a monster storm destroys a community, hope can be as simple as a tree planted to show future generations the meaning of resilience.
The Hallmark Channel wanted to plant a tree of hope—a tree for the people of Beauregard, which was devastated by deadly tornadoes on March 3. But, they needed help picking the right tree as well as expert guidance on how to plant it.
Hallmark found Beau Brodbeck, an urban forestry specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Selecting the Right Tree
Brodbeck explained that producers originally were considering planting a Christmas tree like a spruce.
“I shifted them away from the spruce, which is unsuited to Alabama, to a tree better adapted to the area and one more symbolic for its purpose,” Brodbeck said, as the tree would be a living memorial to the twenty-three people who died in the tornados and a symbol of hope for a community rebuilding.
After talking with Beauregard leaders and discussing several options, Brodbeck helped convice the group to choose an overcup oak, Quercus lyrata.
“An oak makes a wonderful choice,” Brodbeck said. “It grows from the small acorn and develops into the majestic and long-living oak.
“We don’t plant trees for today—we plant them for future generations.”
Planting Time
The Hallmark Channel funded the construction of three new homes in the Beauregard area and hosted a community Christmas celebration in early November. An hour-long special, “Project Christmas Joy,” featured the reveal of the new homes and the community celebration. It first aired on Dec. 10.
As part of the filming for the special, Brodbeck joined Beauregard residents to plant the oak at Providence Baptist Church. The church served as the hub for the initial response and then recovery from the March tornadoes.
Hope for the
Future
Brodbeck said the tree at maturity could reach a height of more than 60 feet and grace the grounds of the church for as long as 100 years. Overcup oak, a species of white oak, gets its common name from the bur-like cup that covers almost two-thirds of the nut.
Brodbeck also said the planting location gives the newly planted tree plenty of room to grow.
“It’s a tough species that can grow well in many different environments, including tough compacted soils,” Brodbeck said. “It will probably develop a very full beautiful canopy. When planted in a sunny location like this, this species develops a lollipop shape to it.”
Finding the right tree presented a challenge. Brodbeck worked with his industry contacts to locate one. Plantation Tree Nursery in Selma supplied the 8-foot-tall tree. Then, the city of Montgomery’s Urban Forester transported the tree to Montgomery. From there, the network had the tree trucked to Beauregard.

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