It was a story that just fell into their laps. It began as a relatively innocuous story of a break-in at the Watergate Hotel that ended with the resignation of a president. The disgrace of a president brought them honor, prestige and a monetary fortune.
Since last week, one of the most talked about stories has been the one I wrote that was titled, “Speaking of Trees: Big weed? Little tree?”
It appears the story I did as a diversion from the Aug. 5 election has defined my career — at least in the short term. I am now waiting on fame, fortune and accolades from my peers to arrive.
I cannot imagine there is anyone by now who isn’t familiar with the story in Monday’s paper about the mystery tree in Clarence Moats’ yard that sprouted in June and grew at least 15 feet by the end of July.
Apparently everybody and his brother and sister knew what kind of tree it was except for Mr. Moats, his neighbors and me. He got 35 phone calls Monday and 15 more on Tuesday from people who looked his number up in the phone book and called him.
It is a paulownia tomentosa, princess tree, royal paulownia or empress tree, according to the many callers and a part of the National Park Service website dealing with non-native flora. A couple of people identified it as a cottonwood tree.
I got several telephone calls at the paper. The first correct caller was Allan Jones, who apparently grew one in his greenhouse.
I got a nice letter from Mary Reynolds who said, “Mr. Moats appears to have the same plant we have in our backyard. It is well above our roof now, the very large leaves will die with the frost and then it will return in the spring. My husband has “cut it down” every year but it grows right back out of the base and always grows very rapidly and very tall. It’s like having Jack’s beanstalk out there.
“We believe it is a type of paulownia tree. There are many, many different varieties including some that bloom, but ours never has. We saw a little item in the newspaper some time back describing a paulownia and that’s how we guessed what it might be — but we don’t know for sure either!
“We have no idea where it came from. It was not there when we originally purchased our house, so the seed came from somewhere!
“Hope this is helpful to Mr. Moats. If he truly wants to get rid of it, my husband would tell him to pull the trunk and roots out because it is very, very persistent.”
Some people believe a picture is worth a thousand words. Bob and Lou sent me an e-mail with a picture and politely stated, “I believe Mr. Davis’ tree is a princess tree or royal paulownia.”
Another nice man, A.W. Welch Jr., sent an e-mail without a picture. He seems like a practical, down-to-earth person who probably figured I didn’t need another picture since I had already taken one. Besides, he took the time to describe what it will look like in four or five years.
He wrote, “The picture in yesterday’s paper looks like what I know as a Royal Paloma Tree. They can grow as much as 12 feet a year and have purple, bell-shaped blooms in the spring. My tree bloomed for the first time this spring. It is about four or five years old.”
People are probably surprised I could not identify the tree, but I grew up in Oklahoma in an area where there is not an overabundance of trees. There are many trees in the eastern part of the state. There are some trees in the central part and I’m pretty sure there is a tree somewhere in the western part of the state.