Painting Key Biscayne tree trunks white is unnecessary
While driving the streets of Key Biscayne after the TS Eta, observing the significant and unacceptable levels of flooding that we need to address, I came across something that is customary in Latin America, but a surprise, outside our Community School: Tree trunks painted white.
I would always ask myself and others in my home country of Venezuela, “Why would anyone want to paint trees?” The answers I got ranged from, “It was dictator Vicente Gomez who thought trees looked more elegant in parks and avenues painted white,” to “They used to white-wash tree trunks with calcium hydroxide during colonial days to protect them from red ants.” The latter explanation made little sense since trees have survived just fine with insects for millions of years. In fact plants have developed amazing and complex symbiotic relationships with insects.
So why would someone want to bring what is an old Latin American custom to Key Biscayne where we treasure the pristine nature of our environment?
We already do a lot to our trees that nature didn’t intend. Severely pruning palm trees, for example, to protect them against windstorms is bad enough. They generally survive perfectly well in storms on their own because they are designed to handle strong winds.
We should generally try to let nature do its thing with the least interference possible. Shaping trees carefully to keep them balanced and beautiful, as nature intended, is fine. But painting them is not something we should be doing.