Sunday, February 17, 2008

Allegedly phallic tree revisited

I have been trying, in recent weeks, to make my Cactuseaters blog more focused on the environment, backpacking, trees and "green'' issues. With this in mind, I've decided to republish a story I wrote some years back for the Santa Cruz Sentinel about an "allegedly phallic tree.'' For some reason, this story resulted in a small avalanche of strange attention; I went on various Howard Stern-style radio programs to talk about this particular shrubbery.

Fact or fallacy: Sexy tree too much for some Westside neighbors
Sentinel staff writer
May 8, 2002

A Westside resident called the cops Monday to report an allegedly phallic tree.

Officers responded to the Liberty Street home but found no wrongdoing. They said the 20-footer — actually an evergreen hedge of the Luma genus — is protected by its owner’s right to artistic freedom.

"We contacted the city attorney," said Sgt. Brad Goodwin. "It could be interpreted anywhere from being free speech to being artistic. It’s really nothing we have control over."

All trees can be seen as "phallic," but some would argue this eugenia is especially so. Viewed from the front, the hedge looks to have testicles, or perhaps bosoms.

Eugenia is a common plant noted for white flowers and edible fruits, according to the Sunset Western Garden Book. Sunset says the plant "performs best" in well-drained soil.

The owner of the tree, Gillian Greensite, said she found it peculiar the plant has been there at least 15 years and suddenly someone is mad about it. She said no one has complained to her about the plant.

Greensite, director of UC Santa Cruz’s rape prevention and counseling program, also questioned what the offended neighbor was really seeing in this tree.

"If they want to see phallic, they see phallic, I guess. I see trees," said Greensite, an outspoken advocate of tree preservation in the city.

She added the eugenia was "not trimmed for any particular purpose."

The complaining neighbor could not be reached for comment Tuesday....

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