An Earth ambassador's personality takes root

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A tree that tweets? And gives interviews?

You might think we've been smoking tree bark or something, but there really is a pin oak with a Twitter account ( and plenty to say about "community forests," among other topics.

Penny (yes, that's her name) is in Kansas City, Mo.'s Loose Park. And by the way: Earth Day is today.

Q: I don't believe I've ever interviewed a tree before, but it's not a bad job — especially on a warm spring day. Your claim to fame is that you're the "tweeting tree." I know that snake that got loose in the Bronx Zoo was a tweeter — is that where you got the idea?

A: Oh, please. I predate @BronxZoos Cobra by about two years. If anything, she copied me. A snake on Twitter! Who ever heard of such a silly thing? She is amusing, but she seems to be all buddy-buddy with that sleazy @CharlieSheen guy. Tsk. #notwinning

Q: You like to tell humans about community forests. What's that all about?

A: Community forests are made up of the trees that surround you every day — in your yard, on your street and in parks and other public areas. Living among people can be a hard life for trees. We often get planted or cared for poorly. But it's also incredibly rewarding. I would never trade my place in Loose Park. I feel very connected where I am.

Q: More tree talk in just a second. But first, since Earth Day is around the corner, what are a couple of simple steps most folks can take to help the Earth?

A: Plant a tree, of course! Besides that, reducing driving is incredibly beneficial. Riding the bus, biking, walking and carpooling reduce harmful vehicle emissions — and the added activity makes humans healthier. Other simple actions, such as adjusting your home's thermostat to reduce energy use or choosing local foods, also make a big difference.

Q: By the way, didn't mean to offend you by mentioning steps. Is it a bummer always being in the same place?

A: Not at all. Steps are one of those things that seem to really define humans; you have to take them to get wherever you need to go. I have everything I need right here. You'd be surprised how much the scenery changes, even when you stay in one place your whole life.

Q: Besides trees, your neighbors include lots of birds and other animals. Tell me about some of your friends.

A: Suzy is probably my closest friend — she's a squirrel. She's been around for ages and always has good dirt. She was the first to find out when Percy the black walnut thought he had thousand cankers disease.

Q: I just remembered National Arbor Day is coming up, too. Is it easy to plant a tree? What trees do well in these parts?

A: Planting a tree is easy, provided you do a little homework. Many of my cousins, like bur oak and swamp white oak, do well in this area. Also bald cypress, shantung maple, Oklahoma redbud ... the list goes on. Placement and planting are very important for trees. Choosing the right tree and properly planting it in the right place are critical to our ability to thrive. You can ask Heartland Tree Alliance, the nearest University Extension office or your local nursery if you have questions about what tree would be best for the spot you want to plant.

Q: On your Twitter page you brag that you're worth more than $25,000. How did you come up with that number?

A: That was calculated by humans using a computer program called i-Tree Streets. It basically puts a dollar value on the benefits I provide based on my species, size, the way the land around me is used, and my location in Kansas City. I also retain storm water. I work all day, every day.

Q: What does a tree have to do to take root in a place as cushy as Loose Park?

A: Well, it has a lot to do with luck. Believe it or not, my mother was actually rooted in Roanoke Park. A squirrel named Millie got caught in a produce truck with this little acorn — that was me! — and then ... well, it's kind of a long story.

Q: Thanks for talking to us! Any final thoughts?

A: Did you know that trees in our region remove about 11,000 metric tons of pollution every year? You're welcome.

Our thanks to Stephanie Blucker, chairwoman of the Heartland Tree Alliance advisory board, for assisting Penny with her answers.

Plant A Tree

Heartland Tree Alliance's website ( offers tips on how to choose a tree, where and how to plant it and how to care for it. Look under "How To" on the left-hand side.

Share This Story