Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring Thoughts on Trees

With redbuds just opening around our area, we are once again threatened with the possibility of an untimely freeze. I'll be anxiously looking each morning for the next couple of days, afraid of seeing damage from the temperature going too low. It does seem to me that some blooms are running later this year, perhaps because of late frosts the last two years.

Spending a day at Bernheim gave me a chance to do a little reconnoitering. I spied the precious catkins of the river birch. I'm reminded that even with so many trees in bloom right now, that so few are even noticed individually. And how pressed even someone who thinks of themselves as a naturalist is to identify a tree by its early bloom. Now is when a guide such as "Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky" by Wharton and Barbour really shines. Color photos of the blooms of many of the trees (and in some cases, photos of the fruits which will come later) precede the black and white photos of the trees that cause many to shun the book.

Some may have heard me yammer on about the color of bark on trees (bark is almost never "just brown"). Wharton and Barbour point out that the bark of young branches on the river birch is "pinkish tan". I must admit that I didn't notice that color, so I'll have to look closer on my next visit. The same book notes that the bark of the tulip tree is gray, though I see younger trees with a distinct pink or rosy cast. Though I don't have a copy, the Audubon guide to trees features a photo of each tree's bark. And I find it difficult to leave the visitor center gift shop without perusing "Tree Bark: A Color Guide".

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