Grand old oak on Palmetto Avenue
Q: Where is Orlando’s oldest tree?
A: The title for most aged tree is a toss-up between two live oaks—one at Big Tree Park on Thornton Avenue, just north of Marks Street, and the other in the city center, behind The Vue at Lake Eola condos, on Palmetto Avenue. Neither comes close in age to matching the 3,500-year-old Senator, the recently destroyed-by-a-stupid-meth-fire bald cypress in Longwood. But surviving for even a few centuries in O-town is quite a feat, considering we knock down arenas after just a couple of decades.
Both Orlando trees are probably 300 to 400 years old, says Andy Kittsley, urban forester for the City of Orlando. Yes, they’re huge, but not so much in height as in girth. Live oaks need little water and thrive along well-drained ridges, rather than in forests, so they generally have an area to themselves and grow squatty and wide, their enormous limbs crowding out potential competition, Kittsley says.
The Big Tree Park specimen is in a somewhat bucolic setting, while the downtown tree is thriving despite being hemmed in by buildings and narrow streets. Other than occasionally trimming dead branches from these giants, “We try to do as little as possible to them, because basically they don’t need us,’’ Kittsley says. “They’ve never needed us. They’re adapted to what they do, and they’ve done it very well for centuries.’’
Q: Whatever happened to John D. Smith, the “Billboard Bachelor’’?
A: The Orlando entrepreneur rented a billboard along I-4 downtown during December 2009, asking motorists to refer potential dates to him at help
johnfindlove.com and offering $1,000 to the “everyday matchmaker’’ responsible for finding The One. Smith went on a few dozen dates, but nothing panned out. (“The first woman I went out with had a boyfriend. It went downhill from there.’’)
These days Smith, 44, is “dating occasionally.’’ So although he hasn’t found the future Mrs. Smith, he could care less: His life is focused totally on his business, Storm Stoppers, a plastic plywood alternative to protect windows and doors during hurricanes that he says has racked up $10 million in sales since 2004. “I hope to be the John Morgan of hurricane window protection one day,’’ Smith says.
As for his billboard experience: “Life is about learning. Doing the billboard taught me that billboard advertising for a significant other is not effective.’’ But he has no regrets—the publicity was (mostly) fun, he got on the Dr. Phil show, which resulted in about 1,000 emails from women, and he organized a local charity bachelor auction.
“Your love life is no different from a business,’’ Smith says. “You have to take risks for possible rewards.’’
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