The problem with doing Tree of the Week is that eventually, you’re going to run out of trees. Not trees in general – there are thousands of species worldwide – but for most regular tree people like myself who don’t travel the world botanizing, we’re going to run out of trees we actually have firsthand experience with. What I’ve strived to do with Tree of the Week is try to capture something from each of these species – for lack of a better, more scientifically accurate word, their personalities. I’ve spent a lot of time around them and many have become as familiar as old work colleagues, or even dear friends. If I were to start writing about trees I have no real direct knowledge of, relying on reference books and internet articles, then what’s the point? That information is already out there, and well I could certainly try my best to rearrange it in interesting ways, add dashes of humor and personal, tangentially related anecdotes, it just wouldn’t be the same.
Luckily, while there are only so many tree species in our region, there are enough individual trees out there for me to write about for decades. And so rather than looking at species as a whole, and trying to distill some essence from such a broad collection of individuals, I will now be looking at the individuals (although I’m sure whole species groups will still pop up occasionally). I am hopeful that this will allow us to go even deeper into what makes trees so interesting and unique – each one is a natural record of its particular environment. Site and soil conditions, pruning or lack thereof, and of course the wounds and damage that inevitably appear on an organism that doesn’t have the ability to run from attackers and calamities. All of this is written into the grain of the wood, left for us to discover, if we are able to decipher such writing. Let’s try.
Whether it’s a gorgeous giant of a white oak towering proudly over the landscape, or a gnarled and sad boxelder growing through a chain link fence, each tree has a story to tell. Some may be valiant epics, others crude and short jokes, but such is life. If we look closely and with an open mind, there’s always something to learn. Even two trees that are clones of the same parent plant can take very different paths skyward.