We have been studying the biological functioning and ecological interrelationships of a tree, but they also exist as uniquely social and legal objects in the landscape. For whom does a tree do its work? What work, exactly, is it doing? And who is responsible when it fails? Trees relationship to law, risk, and property confer a unique sort of status to the public nature of ownership, and challenge some of the more abiding categories of boundary definition and maintenance.
There is a certain poetry in the ambivalent language of risk: imminent, probable, possible, improbable. These are the categories of contingency that an arborist brings to their assessment of a tree. Duty of care speaks to the legal pact we enter into when we plant and maintain a tree, as we dance around the threshold of the probable and the possible.
The conversation and field-session was led by a cast of the region’s top tree experts: Skip Kincaid (former Commissioner of Forestry for the city of St. Louis, now with Hanson’s Trees), Ben Chu (Horticulture Supervisor at Missouri Botanical Gardens), Kent Theiling (Horticulturalist at WashU), Bill Spradley (President of Trees, Forests, Landscapes), David Gunn (Arborist at Missouri Botanical Gardens), and Russel (Forestry Division of St. Louis). In addition, we were joined by ecologist Doug Ladd, artist Marilee Keys, biologist Scott Mangan, and outdoor educator Guy Mott. A sincere and resounding thank you to all!