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Hopa crabapple trees in peak bloom

Our crabapples

Apr 25, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

This is the 50th season for city's official trees; let's reinvest in them

It's not by accident that Riverton is decorated annually this time of year by thousands of flowering crabapple trees. Half a century ago, the city made it official.

This is the 50th spring for the hopa crabapple as Riverton's official city tree. It was made so by an official vote of the Riverton City Council on May 20, 1963. The Riverton Garden Club had lobbied the council for the designation after a successful effort to encourage Rivertonites to buy hopa crabs for their yards and business properties in the preceding months.

That was a successful campaign, as the majority of Riverton's homeowners agreed to acquire the trees, which were made available at a discount for a period of time. Mountain View Cemetery in Riverton was a prime beneficiary of the project as well, buying and planting dozens of hopas in the early 1960s.

Within a year or two the springtime landscape of Riverton was transformed. Rare was the yard that didn't have a flowering crabapple tree. A Ranger photographer who went airborne in a chartered airplane in order to get some aerial shots of the city marveled at the sight in May 1964. It was as if an artists had applied dots of white and pink everywhere in town.

In its initial petition to the city, the garden club noted that the hopa crabapple "is a hardy tree that thrives in the local climate of extreme temperatures. It not only tolerates alkaline soil, but the fruit takes on added color in the local type of soil."

Urging local property owners to embrace the hopa, the club's petition said "Front-yard plantings would give the city a striking appearance in the spring, when the tree is covered with bright, pink blossoms."

That prediction was right on the button. The crabs are out early this year, but this year's display is as good as ever, and the trees are at their peak this week.

Modern-day experts now say the hopa crab isn't necessarily the best one for the Riverton Valley. They usually will recommend a slightly different variety for yards nowadays. Prairie Fire and Selkirk are two alternatives that my be more resistant to scab, a disease that can afflict hopa crabs. Except to the most expert eye, these other types, particularly the Selkirk, are indistinguishable from the hopa.

This is the 50th spring of the "official" hopa crabs in Riverton, and next year will be the 50th anniversary of the city's designation. That means that the original plantings are now 50 years old or older.

Now, with this significant calendar milestone at hand, would be a perfect time for Riverton to re-embrace the flowering crabapple. Perhaps a new discount purchase program could be arranged to coincide with a 50th anniversary promotion over the next 12 months. By next spring, a new stand of hopas (or other varieties) could be in place to reinforce and, gradually, replace the originals.

The beauty of our crabapples in the spring is one of Riverton's finest features. Let's work as a community to keep it that way.

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