Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nevada Botany

There’s a stretch of road in Nevada known as “the loneliest road in America,” and there isn’t much to do but keep the car pointed west (or east) and hang on for the ride. Some 40 miles from the last town, I noted an unusual form of tree growth, and stopped (within a mile or two, given the speed limit) to turn and check it out. As a sometime botanist, I just couldn't place the long dangling infloresences, either the strangest fruits I'd ever seen or perhaps some kind of fungal growth.

Of course, Google was able to tell me all about this famous tree! The shoe tree of Middlegate, Nevada, even pointing me to a complete story on the subject, and mentioning a New York Times article.
Alas, the above link reports the demise of the Middlegate Shoe Tree on December 30, 2010, at the hands of vandals.

This particularly famous edition of the shoe tree (a cultural phenomenon I'd somehow missed all these years) is laden with all kinds of footwear-- even a horseshoe-- and, somewhat more grim, a couple of elk legs. Click on the photo to enlarge and explore some of the offerings here.

Unfortunately for this cottonwood tree, the weight of this sole-ful burden has caused many of the more accessible branches to break, depositing a nice pile of shoes at its feet. Other shoe trees have suffered even more from the extra attention of passersby, as the links above will tell.

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