By Jo Ellis
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
In late spring, drifts as white as snow fill the gutters and curbs on the east side of the Jasper County Courthouse. It isn’t snow, of course; it’s the fallen petals of the yellowwood tree that grows squarely in front of the door to the Jasper County Extension office.
The tree has been there many years; no one knows how long. This year the tree bloomed spectacularly. Sadly, the blooms last barely a week. While it is in bloom, the fragrance of the blooms is very noticeable and pleasant.
Yellowwood trees are fairly rare even in the wild. Its native range is in Virginia and North Carolina, and other states like Tennessee and Kentucky. They also are found along the Missouri-Arkansas border, and some grow in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, but in the northern areas, they may bloom only every three to five years.
Jasper County is lucky to have this rare and attractive tree. Jon Skinner, an urban forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that for a brief time, the tree growing on the courthouse lawn held the title of largest yellowwood in the state. The designation has since been given to a tree in Kansas City.
The yellowwood tree is slow-growing. Generally, they do not bloom the first 10 years. Its bark is smooth and pale gray. The heartwood of the tree is a deep yellow and is used to make a dye. As summer progresses, the leaves mature from a lighter to a darker green, and by fall they have turned a brilliant yellow.
The one at the courthouse has developed an interesting, multiple-forked trunk, just as many of them do. The delicate, white flowers grow along stems that can be as short as 4 inches and as long as 16 inches, and they hang pendulum-style.
In full bloom, it’s quite a sight to see. Skinner said this tree would make an attractive specimen for homeowners if they have the patience to grow or even find them. Yellowwoods are on the endangered list in some states; in Missouri their status is considered “vulnerable.”
The smell of spring definitely is in the air around the county’s yellowwood tree. I’m just sorry I didn’t write about it last week, when it was showing off its full-blown blossoms and scent. Still, if you check it out soon, you may find that the fragrance lingers on.
Raw emotion and human values provide the drama in a play to be presented the coming two weekends at Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre.
William Shakespeare’s “Othello has been adapted and is directed by Paxton Williams, a playwright, actor and nonprofit executive most recognized for his portrayal of George Washington Carver, and for his work in previous Stone’s Throw productions such as “Twelve Angry Men,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Williams said this adaptation pays tribute to other Shakespeare works, such as “Hamlet” and “Julius Caesar,” and was inspired by a performance of “King Lear” that he saw performed at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Major roles are carried by Roland Geddie, Tom Brown, Bill Welsh, Raven Micale, Lucretia Baker and Carole Lenger. Making their debuts at Stone’s Throw will be Betsy Burueda, Karen Lasater and Katelyn Lasater.
If you are a lover of Shakespeare’s timeless plays, you will enjoy this production. If you have not been introduced to his work, you may become a fan.
Performances are slated for Thursday through Saturday, and for May 21-23. Tickets are $22 for adults, $19 for seniors over 55, and $10 for youths under 17. Children under 5 are admitted free. For further details and reservations, people may call 417-358-9665 or 417-358-7268.