Why I Keep Trying to Grow Poplars

P1160987Pictured is my fourth attempt at growing a poplar from seed. The seed, which was within a capsule-like fruit, landed in my garden after it drifted in the wind, courtesy of an attachment to a cottony puff. Most people, if they notice them at all, think they are an annoyance that have to be skimmed off  swimming pools. They are in instead another species’ way of perpetuating itself. And they are more ephemeral than most flowers. In fact, prior to germination, the soil must have been moist because poplar seeds are only viable for a few days.

The third attempt failed. After germinating in the same manner and location, I transplanted a one-foot poplar to the green strip between the sidewalk and the street, in the spot where a city tree had died. But after 5 years of neglect, officials decided to finally plant a new one where my poplar stood. I moved it to my yard, but my neighbour’s dog chewed a ring around its  bark, removing the phloem, which led to the starvation of its roots.

The second attempt was a prequel of the first third one’s history, with the same cause of death—girdling, it’s called—but with a different perpetrator. A city worker with a noisy, fossil fuel-powered weed wacker inadvertently killed it. It’s why I surrounded the vulnerable trunk of Poplar Number 4 with a mesh, in case the neighbour’s dog returns with the same intention, which it already has, or in case the cord of the weed wacker somehow slips and covers three times its intended radius.

Attempt number one happened decades ago when I was still a teenager living at my parents. I had been watching its quick growth when one day I found it in the garden with its roots pointing to the sky. I revived it temporarily, only to be told by my father that it was  a useless tree. It’s not, actually. Aside from its beauty and ability to remove carbon dioxide from the air and convert water to oxygen, the wood can be used for plywood and matches. But that was never my reason for caring about poplars.

Between the ages of 5 and 10, there were hundreds of poplars in what we considered to be our backyards, given that there was no fence separating our properties from the woods. In those woods we built cabins and fires, ate berries, climbed trees. My grandmother even taught us how to make bows and arrows from the soft, easily peeled wood of poplars. Then one spring, a bulldozer, in a matter of hours, wiped out the natural playground of our childhood. Three of us screamed at the operator. When he told us to get lost, I picked up a small rock and threw it at him with Rusty Staub-like accuracy. Luckily, it did not hit him in the head but in the back. He tried to chase us, but we ran away like rabbits. The exhilaration from the escape was short-lived, but the urge to spread poplars all over the city has never gone away.


Life’s Essential Elements

Life’s Essential Elements is available at Amazon at https://t.co/l71gxUWzZb?amp=1

Just prior to publishing the book, I created a new cover to please my daughter. Authors are told not to expect their family members to read their book. My parents don’t read English, so that’s a given, but I do hope that my daughter will have a go at it. In January, she will start her PhD in chemistry, and while she will have no choice but to get bogged down in detail, it might be a refreshing break for her to get a bird’s overview of the elements’ role in life.

Remember all of my profits (not Amazon’s unfortunately) will go to a Montreal charity (CDH) for autistic children.

Book Will Be Out Soon

CoverSmallLife’s Essential Elements will be released soon. Although it has involved a lot of work, research and some mud-wrestling with Word and other software, it is an endeavour that I don’t want to conclude! I keep getting ideas to improve the book, but I could see how the necessary obsession is starting to get on the nerves of family members. For that reason, and because an individual life is not infinite, I will make an effort to wrap it up.  What’s funny is that our dog Blues has gotten so used to me waking up early to work on it, that if I try staying in bed past 4 AM, he barks, urging me to come downstairs. Then he sits quietly and patiently until about 5 AM when he gets fed and taken out, not necessarily in that order.

The book is aimed at not only teachers and other aficionados of chemistry but at anyone who took the course in high school and wants to give the subject a second chance. Less than 20% of the book is rehash of past blogs. The rest is my crazy blend of teaching anecdotes and scholarly work but always centered around the theme of life-essential elements and compounds; how those substances are often also vital to industry and where they came from cosmically.  The book delves into everything ranging from the biochemistry that makes music audible to the most efficient and least polluting way of making magnesium, the lightweight metal that’s needed to make alloys for suitcases, airplanes and bicycles.

It will be soon available on Amazon for only $4.99 with all my profits going to charity, specifically Montreal’s Center for Dream and Hopes for children with severe autism, Down’s Syndrome or other special needs. Originally I was going to make the book free, but I  believe $4.99 is cheaper than a Big Mac and hopefully the book will be better brain- food for you. 🙂



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