League City Arborist Heather McKnight spends her days ensuring that the City’s historic oak trees are protected and maintained. But in the evenings, you’ll find her “green thumb” wrapped around a pencil writing pages for a book she is working on. The topic? Here’s a hint, it has nothing to do with trees!
What does a City arborist do?
No two days are the same. One day I might be consulting with a developer on a tree permit, another I’m using a Lorax to educate a group of students, and yet another I’m investigating a mystery tree fungus that residents have called about.
A Lorax, what is that?
(Laughs) The Lorax is my favorite Dr. Seuss character. In the book, he was the voice of the trees, because they have no voice. A movie, based on the book, came out a few years ago. Whenever I talk to elementary school-aged students or scout troops, I use a stuffed Lorax to address the importance of protecting trees.
Investigating a mystery fungus? How often does that happen?
More often than you know. Recently, I have been dealing with a lot of phone calls and emails from residents about a strange webbing on their oak trees. It’s actually bark lice, and it’s a good thing. Bark lice are small mites that weave a net on a tree’s trunk and limbs. The webbing cleans out algae and fungus that is dangerous to the tree.
How does one become an arborist?
I got my undergraduate degree in horticulture from Stephen F. Austin University and worked for several years in the private sector managing design projects for a commercial firm. I then came to work for League City.
You also moonlight as a college professor at San Jacinto College in Pasadena?
Yes, I teach Writing, Composition 1 and 2, three nights a week. Most of my students are freshmen or high school seniors taking dual enrollment classes.
Writing, not horticulture? How did that happen?
I have always had two loves: trees and writing. I just wasn’t sure how to combine the two into one job. I love to write and I am currently working on a book. I have a Master’s Degree in Literature from the University of Clear Lake.
What kind of book are you writing?
It’s not about trees (laughs)! It’s actually a novel loosely based on my crazy family that lives in the Florida Panhandle. It includes my Uncle Moonrock and his frequent run-ins with the law. Stay tuned!
You are in the sun a lot. What advice do you have for protection from dangerous UV rays?
A big hat!