Tree expert Olaf Ribeiro’s Arbor Day tours of Winslow’s historic
trees was fully booked, even with two added walks. If you missed
the tour, you can still read the story (below) I wrote last week.
For Larry Steagal’s photo gallery of Ribeiro in action, check out
A change comes over Olaf Ribeiro when he touches the gnarled and
scabbed bark of an old apple tree gripping a small patch of lawn on
Suddenly he no longer sees the clinic and the busy sidewalk
crowding the tree’s roots. The supermarket across the street and
its vast parking lot disappear. In his mind’s eye, acres worth of
Winslow streets, shops and restaurants give way to rows of apple
trees much like the one at his side.
“All of downtown was an orchard,” he said, squinting at a view
in the distant past. “Twenty acres. All that you can see here was
apple trees. Why this one has survived is beyond me.”
Having an accommodating inheritor – the Winslow Virginia Mason
clinic – is one key to the tree’s longevity. The other is Ribeiro,
who has combined the passion of an activist with the know-how of a
scientist to save some of Winslow’s oldest and most revered
A plant pathologist for over 30 years, the Kenyan-born Ribeiro
uses Bainbridge as his home base between globe-spanning,
tree-saving adventures that have been profiled in the Wall Street
Journal and NBC’s Today show. He’s advised arborists treating the
Doomsday Tree, under which England’s Magna Carta was signed, and
provides ongoing care for Britain’s Tortworth Chestnut, a tree said
to have sprouted over 1,200 years ago.
“How long a tree lives depends on how you treat it,” he
Ribeiro gives his most dedicated attention – often
free-of-charge – to the island trees he holds most dear.
The three towering trees outside the Bainbridge Historical
Museum have been under the Ribeiro’s care for decades. He agitated
at City Hall enough to save the former pet store property from
redevelopment and worked to free the trees’ compacted roots from
the store’s parking lot. Now the trees – an elm, a sycamore and an
88-foot-tall red oak – live on as reminders of a unique past.
“These trees were brought across the ocean from Britain,”
Ribeiro said. “They’re the last of their size remaining in