“Mister!” he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
“And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs ... ”
Excerpted from “The Lorax,” by Dr. Seuss
The middle of the day is the worst. “Especially in the afternoon,” Bailey Lombardo said. “There are a lot of them in the afternoon.”
That’s when the hemlock woolly adelgid does the most damage. That’s when the ever-expanding population of Asian beetles really goes to work on the hemlock trees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The adelgid drain the sap from the trees. As a consequence, the population of the fern-like evergreens is declining at an alarming rate.
Essential to cooling the park’s mountain streams, loss of the hemlock trees would have damaging, long-term ecological consequences. Many of the fish native to the streams would not survive.
Lombardo, 7, learned of the plight of the hemlocks on a school field trip Treemont in May. There, her Montvale Elementary first-grade class learned the hemlocks face near extinction if something isn’t done.
Since the trees can’t speak for themselves, Lombardo, who’ll be the featured artist at Southland Books for the Last Friday Art Walk on Friday, Aug., 29, has chosen to speak for them.
The budding artists will display her photography and paintings at the Broadway Avenue used bookstore from trips to the park, with the proceeds from any sale going to the Save Our Hemlocks Foundation. The work is quite good, but Lombardo is taking no chances with this one.
Along with her pictures and paintings, the enterprising second-grader will operate a lemonade stand during the showing, again with proceeds going to aid the hemlocks.
“She's wanted to do a lemonade stand for years, independent of this project,” Andy Lombardo, Bailey’s father, said.
The real dangers facing the hemlocks spurred her daughter to action, her mother, Jodie Lombardo, said.
Bailey was deeply affected by a lecture on the hemlock trees during the Treemont trip. She could talk of nothing else when she got home.
“She said, ‘Mommy, I need to tell you about the hemlocks and how the adelgid are going to kill all the hemlocks,’” Jodie Lombardo said.
Native to Asia, the hemlock adelgid migrated to the United States in the 1950s and spread rapidly. A predator beetle native to Japan keeps the hemlock aldegid in check in the Far East. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, “They (the Hemlocks) don’t have that natural protector,” Jodie Lombardo said.
Work began in the 1990s to introduce one. Tests conducted in areas ranging from Connecticut to Virginia have been encouraging, with the population of the hemlock adelgid declining as much as 80 percent in some places. The National Park Service began introducing predator beetles into the Smokies in 2002. The University of Tennessee has an ongoing research project to breed the beetles to speed the process.
For Lombardo, an answer can’t be found soon enough.
The Save Our Hemlocks Foundation, which has sanctioned Bailey’s project, is a non-profit organization always in need of funding. Friends of the Smokies is a partner it the endeavor and a major contributor. Bailey’s Last Friday showing will help, but it means much more than that, Southland owner Lisa Misofsky said.
“I think it’s a serious issue for anybody who loves this area,” she said. “She was deeply affected, and she doesn't want to lose the trees.”
According to a Great Smoky Mountains National Park report, the Smokies protect the largest stands of old-growth hemlock in the East. Eastern hemlocks live to be over 600 years old and reach a height greater than 165 feet, the report states.
Without successful intervention, the report continues, the hemlock woolly adelgid will reduce the population of the hemlock trees within the park to almost nothing.
Bailey got the idea for the art show after attending one of the Last Friday showings. She had her father, who works part-time at the bookstore, mention the idea to Misosky, who scheduled Bailey’s work for the next available slot at Southland.
“I thought it was great idea,” Misosky said. “Why not?
“If there’s a 7-year-old that can pull this off, it’s her.”
Some of Blount County’s finest artist have put there wears on display during the art walk. It’s a big job just to set up.
Bailey, Misosky said, was ready two days ago.“It’s all ready to go, and the lemonade stand will be a big hit,” she said.