Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hugging Trees

Dear George,
One of the treats of early spring is that the trees are still bare and their trunks and branches are silhouetted against the sky.  I probably inherited my connection to trees from my dad.  When he and Doris bought their 240 acres of property in Birch Creek, Vic officially registered it with the state as a tree farm and planted hundreds of evergreens and hardwoods.  He staked out trails in the forest to commune with the trees and gave personal names to the most notable specimens.  When we went for walks in the forest, Vic would stop now and then, hug one of the trees, and express his devotion to this fellow living being. 

Our childhood home was in the midst of the woods, and the trees were an important part of our lives.  Steve and I had a secret club in the treehouse in the front yard.  We used the Norway pines as goalposts for our football games, and my sister’s swing was suspended from another pair of Norways.  We climbed on the willow and elder trees, had acorn fights under the great oaks, pressed and dried bright red maple leaves, and sent messages in code on strips of birch bark.  In my teenage years, I built my private camp in the woods from the trunks of alder trees, we used tree branches for tent poles, and our swimming raft was made from white pine logs that we towed home from Pig Island.    

There are endless things to know about trees.   Here are a few of the tidbits that I’ve run across recently:
  • Trees have existed on Earth for 370 million years.  That’s 140 million years before the dinosaurs appeared. 
  • An average tree is made up of 99% dead cells, with only about 1% of the tree alive at any given time (leaves, root tips, and a thin layer of under bark).  
  • In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is a gigantic holy ash tree which extends upward to the heavens and connects the nine worlds.  Yggdrasil provides a home to numerous creatures, including the dragon Níðhöggr, an eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór
  • Oak trees don’t start producing acorns until they are at least twenty years old, and many oaks don’t have acorns until age fifty. 
  • According to Guinness, the world’s most dangerous tree is the manchineel tree from Florida and the Caribbean.  Its bark is covered in a sap that causes skin to blister and can blind a person if it gets in their eyes.  People die from eating its fruit.  
  • There are over three trillion mature trees growing on Earth.  
  • The world’s tallest recorded tree, at 379.3 feet, is a Sequoia named Hyperion in Redwood National Park in California.  
  • 96% of ancient redwoods were cut down through logging in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.   
  • A hotel in Harads, Sweden, is called “Treehotel” and has all of its rooms up in trees.     
  • Office workers with a view of trees out their windows report less stress and more job satisfaction.  
  • The Jack Pine’s cones are glued to the tree with resin, and its seeds are only released when the tree is destroyed by a forest fire. 
  • The world’s oldest living organism is believed to be a colony of Quaking Aspen near Bryce Canyon National Park in central Utah.  The colony weighs 6,600 tons, and parts of its interconnected root stock are over 80,000 years old. 
  • In the 1930s Nazis planted clusters of trees in the shape of swastikas.  The first of these was found in 1992 during an aerial survey.
  • One of the world’s most sacred trees is the Bhodi Tree in Bodhi Gaya, India.  It is believed that the Buddha first attained enlightenment after meditating without moving in his seat for seven days under the Bodhi Tree.  
  • A fully mature birch tree can produce one million seeds in a year.  
  • On Dec. 10, 1997, activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill climbed a redwood tree  in California to protest a company’s logging practices and stayed there until Dec. 23, 1999 — the longest known tree sit in history. 
  • A Wild Fig Tree in South Africa has the deepest recorded roots in the world, reaching 400 feet under the ground.   
  • In China every citizen over age eleven is required to plant three trees a year.  
 Our Clifton neighborhood has many great old trees, not only on its residential streets but in Burnet Woods, Rawson Woods, and Mt. Storm Park.  The oldest trees in Clifton predate the establishment of the village in the 1850s.  Here are some tree pics that I’ve taken around the neighborhood in the past few weeks.

SOURCES:, “Tree facts”; www.avivadirectorycom, “Interesting factfs about trees”;, “Tree trivia and tree myths”;, “Tree trivia”;, “Tree trivia”;, “25 kickass and interesting facts about trees”;, “8 amazing facts about trees you didn’t know”;, “Interesting facts about trees”;, “Tree facts”;, “7 weird facts about trees”;, “Tree facts”;, “Trees,” “Bodhi Tree,” “Trees in mythology”


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