by Mary Reid Barrow
Dear Human Friends:
I know we sweetgum trees don’t get much respect from you, because our gumballs fall in autumn and make a mess of your lawn.
But gumballs and other “trash”, as you call it, that drop from trees are a small price to pay for all we trees do for you humans.
Just take a walk along the Long Creek Trail at First Landing State Park, like tree hugging LRNow and a group did last Saturday. And you’ll see how strong and persevering we trees are.
Along that trail, you will see two of my brothers that crashed across the trail many years ago and still live today, even as they have been lying prone for decades on the forest floor!
These guys’ branches are growing upright. muscular and strong, reaching for the sunlight Their roots, still attached on the ground side, continue to siphon nutrients up to the branches. In certain areas, new roots have even grown from the sides of the trunk!
One of my comrades is almost hollow but its outer ring and bark still lives, feeding and protecting him.
You humans might say my two bros are the comeback kids if ever there were any, but in the tree world all of us just keep living out our lives, no matter what happens to us. You see, we trees are tough and don’t complain.
If the ground gets too wet, and I topple over, I’d live lying down. If a hurricane comes and splits my crown open, I would happily grow gnarly and crooked. If the river erodes the bank where I live, I would hang on for dear life with my bare roots.
All the while, I would slow flooding by holding your soil in place and sucking up tons of water, I would take in carbon dioxide and send out oxygen for you to breathe and if I start to fail, I would continue to provide lodging and food for birds, and other critters, as I slowly die and rot into mulch for the forest.
My gumballs (or too many leaves, or nuts that my cousins drop in the fall) are a small price to pay for all we sweetgums and other trees do for you.
Right now, enjoy my beautiful fall color. I’m one of the prettiest trees in the forest in autumn and I don’t mind saying so myself. My star-shaped leaves are a rainbow of colors—red, yellow, purple, orange and gold .
And after my leaves fall, I hang onto many of my gumballs because if think of them as decorative jewelry on my bare branches. And you wouldn’t believe how much the chickadees and other critters love the seeds they find in almost every crevice of my gumballs. (Hint: if you don’t like my gumballs, after they fall, you can mow them up with your mower and make mulch!)
If I haven’t convinced you that we trees of all kinds are worthy of your love, whatever phase or stage of life we are in, attend the premiere of LRNow’s video “Trees in Place Age With Grace”, at 6:15 p.m. this Wednesday (Nov. 4) on YouTube: https://youtu.be/fbaUeorRT_Q
Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell? What relationships have you observed between plants and critters? Who eats whom? Who has babies where? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org