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Detroit being reclaimed by nature.


The new issue of Harpers Weekly features an article on “post-Industrial” Detroit. Detroit has long been one of the largest majority black cities in America. It has been on a steady decline for decades. Now pheasants, turkey, and foxes roam the streets while vegetation grows on high-rises.

A Detroit Blogger describes the situation…

Even downtown, abandoned skyscrapers, with windows left open to the elements, become giant pigeon coops, with upper floors covered in inches of pigeon droppings, as generation after generation of pigeons live uninterrupted by humans in the middle of a major downtown. Buildings like the Wurlitzer, the Lafer and the Broderick house hundreds of pigeons between them.

Trees up to two or three stories tall rise up from the roofs of a number of local skyscrapers, like the Metropolitan, Charlevoix and Lafayette buildings, and hotels like the Fort-Shelby, and used to rise from the Statler and Book Cadillac hotels. A bushy tree rises higher each year from the Detroit Building’s roof on Park Avenue.

Probably the most visible wildlife in the city are the roving packs of wild dogs in Detroit neighborhoods. Groups of usually four to seven dogs, each litter progressively wilder and stranger-looking than their predecessors, roam through even well-kept neighborhoods, occasionally making the news when they attack someone, usually children or mail carriers.

Probably the most famous symbol of wildlife’s reclamation of the city are the stubborn trees referred to locally as ghetto palms. Known for their ubiquitousness in Detroit’s alleys, empty lots and fence borders between homes, the Ailanthus altissima, also called the Tree of Heaven, was imported from China in 1784 and spread through the city like a weed. It’s a very hardy species, able to grow in very small amounts of soil, requiring little sunlight or water, and able to withstand all sorts of soil pollutants, as anyone who’s tried to rid their property of them can confirm.

You can use their height as a gauge of how long a particular parcel has been neglected. In some areas they reach several stories high.