The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 14, 2011

Jo Ellis: Small deeds will make a big impact

By Jo Ellis

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A big, big thanks to all who have called, emailed or written to me saying they want to participate in Nature-Joplin (Nurture a Tree-Urban Reforestation Effort-Joplin) to help Joplin recover from the May 22 tornado that scoured the landscape.

Responses have come in not only from Joplin, Carthage and Webb City, but also from places like Grove, Okla., and Columbus, Kan. I even had an email from Cody Walker, born in Joplin and raised in Galena, Kan., and now serving our country in the U.S. Army, stationed in Washington, D.C. He read my column on the Globe’s website.

Cody had emailed the column to everyone on his contact list, encouraging them to participate and pass the information on to their families and friends. He also suggested that growing trees would be a good project for local schools.

The gist of Nature-Joplin is for those of us who have wayward tree seedlings springing up in unwanted places in our yards to dig, pot and nurture them to a suitable size for transplanting in the yards of homeowners who are rebuilding or need to restore their landscapes.

At the appropriate time, the trees will be conveyed, upon the homeowners’ requests, via a databank that will keep track of growers and recipients and match availability with requests. So far, I have had offers of oak, maple, walnut, flowering trees such as redbud, purple leaf sand cherry, and peach, plus shrubs such as crape myrtle and lilac.

Every tree native to the area is a good choice. Dorothy Bay, a botany professor at Missouri Southern State University, recommended elm (Dutch elm disease-resistant), persimmon and linden trees as good species for this location.

John Woods, of Webb City, suggested that perennials like peonies, irises, daffodils and lilies also would be welcomed. He said he has many “legacy” perennials, as well as maple trees, derived from his family in mid-Missouri. Such plants would be especially significant, I believe, to both giver and receiver.

“They mean a lot to me and give me a connection to my home,” Woods said. “I know it will not be the same for residents of Joplin rebuilding, but it might make them feel better about the loss of their entire yards and flower gardens.”

Char Hinman, also of Webb City, said the loss of Joplin’s green canopy distressed her so that she went out and bought two Alberta spruce pines “to care for until someone could use them.” A nice thought that will provide year-round greenery.

Right after I introduced the idea of Nature-Joplin, we were hit with several weeks of a heat wave in which temperatures hovered around 100 degrees and above. Unfortunately, it killed the small oak seedling for which I had such high hopes. I can’t explain why when I kept a large root ball on it and watered it sufficiently.

Oh well, I have plenty of others, and now I’m leaving them all in the ground until they are a bit hardier. Except maybe for the redbuds, which quickly grow tap roots that extend to the center of the Earth and require an excavator to dig them up.

There are many groups and organizations out there with a similar effort to reforest Joplin, and I applaud each one of them. It will take all of us and more to again make the city a beautiful place to live.

If you are one of those who joined our effort, I would like to thank you again and encourage you to keep in touch and tell me of your progress. I will be writing again in about three months with tips on winter care.

New participants are welcome. Call me at 417-359-5966, email me at, or write me at 12022 Old 66 Blvd., Carthage, MO 64836.

In closing, I offer Cody Walker’s thoughts: “In my life, I have learned it is the small things that we do that ultimately make the biggest impact on those around us.”