Tree on Bayshore Drive saved; Botanical Garden to the rescue

John Dube, Win Turner and Kurt Van de Wouw, left to right, plan the excavation of a silk floss tree adjacent to the Naples Botanical Garden on Bayshore Drive on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, in Naples. Officials from the garden have begun the process of moving the tree into the gardens to make room for new infrastructure along the county right-of-way as part of the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Redevelopment Project. Albers/Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

John Dube, Win Turner and Kurt Van de Wouw, left to right, plan the excavation of a silk floss tree adjacent to the Naples Botanical Garden on Bayshore Drive on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, in Naples. Officials from the garden have begun the process of moving the tree into the gardens to make room for new infrastructure along the county right-of-way as part of the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Redevelopment Project. Albers/Staff

— Win Turner doesn’t remember the exact date he planted the silk floss tree on Bayshore Drive.

“It was either 1943 or 1945 when I planted it,” he said. “It was in a three gallon bucket ... I put it out there because I liked it. The flowers look like little orchids.”

But after 65 years, the tree was in danger of losing its place on the street.

The tree, which is in county right-of-way and split by a power line, could have been a casualty of the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Redevelopment sidewalk project.

“We’re not trying to cut the tree down,” Bayshore Gateway Triangle Redevelopment Project Manager David Buchheit said.

Buchheit said moving the planned sidewalk around the tree had been considered but they still worried about roots causing damage and havoc.

Officials with the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Redevelopment District said they would be willing to give the tree to anyone who wanted to come and take it.

The Naples Botanical Garden has come to the rescue. Crews from the Botanical Garden are now working to remove the tree and, with the help of the contractors on the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Redevelopment project, will move it over the wall and into the Botanical Garden.

Naples Botanical Garden Executive Director Brian Holley said it is a win-win for everyone.

“I have been looking at that tree since I got here,” he said. “We have a collection of silk floss trees in the garden. They have an elephantine look. They’re really neat trees.”

Holley said the tree will be moved near a cluster of sea grapes near the Florida garden.

“I am glad it isn’t going to be destroyed,” he said.

The news is also sure to please Kathy Smith, who lives in the area.

“I love that tree. When it is in bloom, it has the most beautiful blossoms,” she said.

County officials said that the project, which has been in the works for more than two years, proceeded without any objections to removing the tree. Smith said she went into action when she saw contractors looking at the tree, which she calls The Elephant Tree. It was then, she said, that she began to make calls about saving it. Smith, who said she doesn’t consider herself a tree-hugger, said she didn’t necessarily want the tree to stay on Bayshore Drive.

“Just save the tree. That’s ideal. I don’t think they would be able to leave it where it was anyway with the power line there,” she said.

Crews working on the tree expect to have it moved by Friday. Turner, who volunteers at the Botanical Garden, said he is happy the tree will have a new home.

“It has a lot of history. I would hate to see it cut up and thrown away,” he said.

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