catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 1 :: 2011.01.14 — 2011.01.27


Top ten favorite trees (and why)

Towards the end of 2009, I learned that the average North American child can identify thousands of corporate logos and only a handful of local trees.  Realizing that I only knew five or six local trees myself, I decided to learn more in 2010.  These are my top ten favorites from a year of exploration. 

  1. Red oak, because the key-like leaves are so easy to identify. It was probably the first kind of tree I knew as a child.  Also, the acorns are surprisingly easy to collect and germinate.
  2. Tulip trees (aka tulip poplar, yellow poplar), so called because their large leaves are shaped like a flattened tulip.  These trees stand straight and tall and command attention. 
  3. Black willows, because of the huge willow on my grade school property.  Its multiple trunks spread out creating the perfect space for little girls to sit and tell stories. 
  4. Sassafras, because I am unable to say this word without adopting a southern accent.    Aside from being fun to say, it also has beautiful leaves that can take three different forms.  My favorites are the ones that look like mittens.
  5. Butternut: Similar to the walnut tree, this tree is becoming increasingly rare as the butternut canker (a fungus) spreads.  Although I’ve only seen a handful of them, I suppose I’m just a sucker for the underdog.
  6. Dogwood: Arguably a shrub.  But its bright red twigs add some much needed color to winter landscapes.
  7. Ironwood (aka Hop-horn Beam), because they feel like a tense muscle.  This is one tree I do recommend hugging.  It feels like you’re hugging a very strong and tense person. 
  8. White Pine, because the trunk grows tall and straight but the branches often take crazy asymmetric forms.  Considering their size, their roots do not grow deep enough.  They just spread out in a shallow circle around the tree.  As a result, these trees are easily knocked over by strong winds.  There’s a metaphor here, but I don’t want to push it.
  9. Sycamore: Because of their army camouflage bark they look dead or horribly diseased, but they’re actually meant to be like that.
  10. Trembling aspen, because when the wind shakes them, they look like silver sparkling in the sun.

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