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Imani’s Tree: 2022 vs. 2023

Imani and her tree in 2022 (left) compared to Imani and her tree in 2023 (right)

Imani Harper helped plant a tree in Moss Point when she was 12 years old. Now 13, this young lady is growing along with her tree, reaching for the sky and toward their futures that will be linked for as long as they both live.

Planted as part of Earth Day celebrations in 2022, the tree was and is part of the Rotary Club of Moss Point’s Tree Canopy Project – focused on planting, promoting, and protecting the iconic tree canopy of the River City. Imani and her Grandmother Delores Harper came to the Moss Point Library that day to learn how to properly plant a tree and celebrate the value of trees.

What really transpired was an opportunity to connect this young lady to what is now “her” tree. Along with a few members of the Rotary Cub, the library, and volunteers from The First Bank, the group learned the steps for properly planting a tree from my friend and Arborist David Minkler, an occasion that David and others tout as the most important day in the life of a tree. If done well, any tree will be afforded a good start from its days trapped in a pot.

As importantly, is the message that if properly planted, trees like Imani’s Live Oak will grow more rapidly than we might think. There is a misconception that live oaks are slow growing, on their way to becoming some of the oldest living trees across the south. The reality is that live oaks can and do grow rapidly in their first few years. And that was the message relayed to Imani that day along with a challenge to her to watch her tree grow.

I told her that by the time she was a high school graduate, her tree would be as much as 8-10 feet tall. My challenge to her was to document their growth – together, every year. As you can see in the cover photos, one of which was taken on April 20, 2022 and the other on May 19, 2023, their respective youthful growth is obvious. The tree has gained at least 24 inches in height, and it appears that Imani may be keeping up.

The race has only just begun, especially for the tree, even after only one year in the ground. But the tree will ultimately outgrow its benefactor, and that is OK. This story is about making the point that properly planted trees grow fast, but as importantly, that their value can be appreciated and celebrated by people that helped them get a good start in life. I expect yearly photos of Imani next to her tree. In years to come, her family will join her there and sit under its spreading branches.

So, if you go by the Moss Point Library’s front lawn on Bellview Street, stop by and visit Imani’s Oak. This tree got the best of starts out of its pot and will be celebrated by its patron for many years to come.

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!

Photos courtesy of Delores Harper and Steve Seely

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Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.

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