Mystery Tree


One of the projects of our homeschooling Botany block, which we began just before the spring equinox (and which looks like it will continue for a year, if we want to get a rounded view of plant life) has been a Tree Study. My daughter chose a tree in its winter state, down the street on the grounds of the hotel, and we sketched its bare branches and made crayon bark rubbings. Spring arrived; we sketched other, now-budding, even flowering and leafing trees; did other bark rubbings. Our Chosen Tree remained mystifyingly and unashamedly bare in a forest of showy blossoms and new green leaves. Good grief! Was it even ALIVE? Yet the reddish branch tips were springy, not dry.

One day the tips seemed a bit longer. The next day more so. Still no green, but increasingly long. Finally each tip gently opened to reveal a glimpse of…GREEN! Then, long clusters of large, fresh leaves unrolled themselves day by day, impossibly, from the formerly slender twiggy tips. In a few days the tree bore a bright and bushy yellow-green crown wider than it was high, well worth the wait. We sketched it in its new glory. Some of you must be familiar with this type of tree, but I only recognize a handful of varieties. Our neighbor Jason, seeing the sketch, revealed its identity: it is a hornbeam.

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