When I walked past this construction site today, the word ‘tree house’ came to mind. Wouldn’t you want to have a tree house like this? The roots have grown all around this little box, and it is now part of the trunk.
They are phenomenal trees, these trees. They grow all over Beirut. They are called Ficus benjamina, also known as the Weeping Fig or Benjamin's Fig, a species native to south and Southeast Asia. In Europe we have these things as indoor plants.
Phenomenal in the sense that they seem to thrive in a hostile environment. Little rainfall for most of the year, most of them totally encased in concrete, yet still they manage to reach heights of 30 meters.
The United States Forest Service states that the use of this tree in tree form is much too large for residential planting, "Roots grow rapidly invading gardens, growing under and lifting sidewalks, patios, and driveways." They conclude this species should only be used as a hedge or clipped screen.
Well, leave it to the Lebanese. We do not do well within confined environments, rules and regulations. No way clipping us in, and that goes for our trees as well.I hope they’re going to keep these three. But I doubt it.
Two of these trees inspired a landscape architect, Vladimir Djurovic, to create a small escape dedicated to the Beirut and its people. It is called the Samir Kassir Square, and was recently awarded one of nine 2007 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture. Read more on it here.