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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

How one homeowner made his property stand out in the concrete jungle

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
At the massive Las Américas subdivision, the homes are nearly identical, but one stands out for its mini-forest. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

When Michael Kinsey Erb bought his new home in the Las Américas five years ago, it looked like all the others on his block.

Today, his property is a bit easier to distinguish from the rest because it is surrounded by a living fence created by a row of chacá trees. Drivers often stop to take photos, and neighbors call it “the jungle,” or “Hobbiton,” if they are Lord of the Rings fans.

“Any gardener can source them,” says the Canadian native, who takes his privacy seriously.

A dense forest of chaca trees marks Michael Kinsey Erb’s house in Las Américas, a subdivision north of Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatån Magazine

“Usually, they go to the jungle and cut limbs, you plant the cuttings, and they take root.”

The rear garden is thick with ferns and sometimes flowering plants. “It’s my pride and joy,” Michael says. “The secret is simple, really. I keep all leaves and cuttings and use them for ground cover. I even add limbs I find on my walks to the store. I clean out the storm drains close to me as well. It is good compost.”

Michael Kinsey Erb has a green thumb at Las Américas. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

In the forests, the chacá is usually seen near another tree called chechén. And oddly enough, the chacá produces nectar to neutralize poisons found in the sap of the chechén.

It’s explained in a Mayan legend about two great warriors who were brothers. Kinich was kind and loving, while Tizic was hateful. 

Photo: Michael Kinsey Erb

Both fell in love with Nicte-Ha. They battled to the death to determine who would have her and died in each other’s arms. In the afterlife, the gods granted their wish to return to Earth to see the beautiful maiden again.

Tizic was reborn as the chechén, while Kinich was reborn as the chacá.

And to this day, they both watch over Nicte-Ha, who was reborn as a beautiful white flower.

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