Adventures in Trace Fork #4: Lessons in humility

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Blog entry by Tony posted 05-27-2009 03:31 PM 737 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: What a difference a week makes Part 4 of Adventures in Trace Fork series Part 5: Any professional botanists in the crowd? »

In another blog entry yesterday, I spoke of finding a small Cucumbertree specimen that had been taken out by storm damage. It was quite a difficult process identifying that tree, and I’m still only about 95% certain I’m correct. I have half a dozen or so references I use, and I try to work systematically, eliminating possible choices at each step. However, nature is very diverse, and plant taxonomy is both a science and a black art. I have been fooled before by variations in a species. Case in point: a few months ago, I discovered a medium size tree lying against the slope of a steep ravine. Though fallen, it was still very much alive. The trunk had an “S” bend that reminds me of an Anaconda every time I look at the tree. Take a look:



I have been studying the tree since the first leaf buds appeared. All the clues seemed to point to Black Cherry, but the following items led me to conclude it was a different member of the genus Prunus:

1) Every other Black Cherry I’ve seen had a thick, straight trunk near the bottom.
2) The leaves of this specimen are much more ovoid than any other Black Cherry I’ve seen.
3) Every other Black Cherry I’ve seen around here has bloomed, and the berries are now growing. This specimen still has not bloomed, and I check it frequently.

I sent the above photos to a university Dendrologist, and he said it was indeed Black Cherry. Like I said in another post, I still have a LOT to learn.

Another example: I have seen several Northern Catalpa trees along the nearby interstate. They are now blooming, and the large white flowers and arrowhead-shaped leaves are easy to distinguish, even at 70 mph. However, I have a Catalpa in my back yard. The leaves are fully formed, but the flowers are barely beginning to peek out from their buds. I expect it will be at least a few more days before the flowers are at peak. Nature’s diversity really has a humbling effect, at least on me.

I have a placard on my desk at work that reads “Life is a terminal illness with a mortality rate of 100%”. I get a lot of raised eyebrows and comments about morbidity, but I actually find the thought liberating. I made the placard as a reminder to myself to remain humble and enjoy each day as it comes, since we’re all only one heartbeat away from meeting our Creator. I spent far too many years fretting over past mistakes and wrong paths taken. It took far too long for me to learn to just make the most of each day, letting go of the past and not worrying about what might happen tomorrow. I am sleeping MUCH better these days. I’m trying to teach that to our teenagers, but being kids, they’ll have to figure it out themselves. I just hope it doesn’t take THEM 30 years to get it.


PS: The other side of that placard reads “Rule #1: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule #2: It’s ALL small stuff!”

2 comments so far

View waukez's profile


21 posts in 3260 days

#1 posted 05-27-2009 05:32 PM

Wvoldguy. You spoke of Catalpa. here in Oregon Catalpa is not a native species. There are a few that are grown for beauty. I was lucky enough to aquire some Catalpa lumber a few years ago. It is golden and sparkles. with a clear finish it looks like you can see into it. I would realy like to have a couple of hundred board feet more but do not expect to get it. People from back east have a lot more choice on nice hardwoods than we do here on the west coast. I enjor your studys.

-- Tool Maker

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3547 days

#2 posted 05-27-2009 05:39 PM

Better you Identifying tree than me I have trouble with some of the most common trees unless they have been milled

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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