Getting Its Sea Legs: On Restaking the Maple Tree

Coming to the tail-end of its first winter in my front yard rather than in the pot where it had spent its infancy at the nursery, the red maple “October Glory” was tightly bound to its single stake. No wiggle room, unmoved and unbreakable by the wind.


Its skinny stalk of a trunk suggests an egret’s leg, compared to the elephant leg of the stately catalpa tree it replaced on the day the catalpa met its end in December. It is not unworthy of note that the catalpa, despite its trunk’s several feet of circumference, was also subject to felling by the wind on that day it yielded its place to the maple, its trunk having hollowed with age, its sprawling root system no longer the fierce, proud bulwark against the incursions of winter storms.

The catalpa in its dotage, porous and wobbly with age, its replacement young maple wobbly with not enough of it.

But three months on and with spring winds ahead, keeping the maple swaddled would no longer do. Like a human baby, it had not been able to fend for itself in its new environment, out of the womb of its nursery pot in those first callow days.

Hence the straitjacket, for its own good, serving as hovering parent.

But spring is nearly upon us, and with it, the now-toddler tree’s need to stretch, bend, move, yield, hold, find and test its sea legs against the challenge of the stiff winds to come.

Some hovering still required, in the form of loosely wrapped ribbon from the two stakes now driven into the ground on either side of the tree, supportive sentinels at the ready should an unruly storm kick up a wind beyond its strength to endure.

But make that wrap too tight, and how will it ever develop the strength, the fiber, the rootedness, the adaptability, to endure what nature has in store for it, merciless as we know it to be?



Profound thanks to my dear friend Karen Simmons, whose love of trees surely exceeds mine, and whose generously shared expertise has helped guide me in their care, including the staking described above.

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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact:

Maple leaf by Stanley Zimny, New York,

Staked tree by Andrew Hidas,

5 comments to Getting Its Sea Legs: On Restaking the Maple Tree

  • Jeanette Millard  says:

    This whole post makes me think of parenting, and my kids. And of a tenuous democracy, which needs to be knocked around to thrive….anxiety about both and also a real need to see where the strength lies.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Jeanette, you have me wondering what our democracy’s “supportive ties” are, and whether it can ever become “adult” enough to do without them. I don’t think so, actually, because its strength has to be renewed every election, and the behavior and wisdom of those we elect has to conform to and reaffirm our democratic ideals. The “ties,” I think, come from our Constitution and its enumerated separation of powers, but in cases where the Constitution is shredded or just slowly eroded by one branch or other and the co-equal branches do not rise up to assert their power, democracy really struggles. It is only as good and lasting as the people who will support it. We will ultimately see where its strength lies over the next two years, and the occurrences during the 2020 election cycle. I think we know this: it will be ugly, but perhaps it can morph from there into a vigorous restatement of democratic ideals and basic adult comportment that our founders envisioned. (Or is that just a pipe dream??)

  • Karen  says:

    So glad I could be of assistance, Andrew. I do have a love of all living things! I was happy to help get this new baby off to its best possible start. Good work, on your part, with the post driver!

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Yard work is almost always good honest work, Karen, and it was good to gain my first experience with a post driver at my advanced age! “Ha-ba-ba-BOOM!!”

  • kirkthill  says:

    “The Oak and the Catalpa” story hints of “The Oak and the Reed”

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