As a city grows, places are designated for parks with trails and playgrounds for children. The vegetation, including trees and plants, is cut down, paved over, and unprotected. More and more native areas disappear and are forever lost.
When I was the sixth and seventh grade science teacher in the 1970’s at Highlands School in Mountain Brook, I drove back and forth from home to school over Brookwood Road. Brookwood Road intersects with Old Leeds Road near the location of the school, which is on Old Leeds Road. Brookwood Road passed through, at that time, a great fern glade on either side of the road. A fern glade is a damp place where ferns grow in profusion, completely dominating the area. The glade was probably divided on either side of Brookwood Road when it was paved. The glade was a very special place in the shade under the trees.
Later in the 1990’s, I moved from Westbury Road to Old Leeds Road. My property backed up to the area on Brookwood Road near the fern glades. Only the largest glade still remained on the south side of Brookwood Road. The smaller glade was destroyed when a home was built there. Then in the 2000’s, the remaining glade was paved over for a driveway to a big new house.
It was hard to witness the lack of effort to save either glade, so uniquely spread out under the trees and between beautiful rock boulders. It is annoying to me that there exists such a lack of regard for these places when developers endanger them.
Also on Brookwood Road, farther to the east, huge old oak trees were cut down when a new home was being built. A row of Crepe Myrtles was planted to replace them. Now, Mountain Brook has an ordinance that prevents cutting down trees without prior permission from the city, but it’s too late for those beautiful oak specimens replaced by unkempt, straggly Crepe Myrtles. What a shameful waste. And of course, there are no ferns at all.
My family and I own twenty acres on the Cahaba River in Shelby County. The entire acreage was covered with beautiful wood ferns. There is no dwelling on the property, but others on either side have built large houses on their lots. It is in the Cahaba River Get Aways, and each lot is twenty acres at the end of Highway 1 on the river. One day last fall, my son and I went out to the property to find that all the ferns had been removed – stolen! Who would do such a terrible robbery? What could we do about it? Nothing, according to the Shelby County Police. It is against the law, but must be caught in action.
Another lovely and totally unique place near ours is on the rapids of the Cahaba River where the Cahaba River lilies grow. It is the only place in the entire world where these lilies grow. There was a successful fight in the past to save the rapids needed for the lilies to reseed. Also, there is now a Cahaba Lily Society to protect them. They bloom in the spring and are an Alabama treasure. Thank goodness they are safe now, at least until another developer has a bright idea.
The state of Alabama has made an effort to keep their wildflowers blooming. Areas of wildflowers are being planted along the express highways. They are showstoppers, and quite lovely when in bloom: a major step in the right direction. Southern Living Magazine has also planted areas along Lakeshore Drive in front of their building to protect and show the beauty of native wildflowers. The Birmingham Botanical Society has made the same effort. Every year they have a plant sale, including some of these wildflowers, which helps distribute and save these valuable plants. We have other societies and organizations with the same interests.
Flying in a small plane low over our part of the state in the spring when the dogwood and redbud trees are blooming is unbelievable. I had this opportunity when I was taking flying lessons from Captain Jim Beall, now deceased. It is amazing to witness the extensive coverage of these trees that can only be viewed from above. A white and pink cover seen above for miles is outstanding.
As our license tag states: “Alabama the Beautiful.” Let’s keep Alabama a place with plants.