Tree Spells

As a kid growing up in suburban Atlanta, I fell under the spell of trees and forests early. Our first house, a tiny post World War II asbestos sheathed cottage was luckily situated across the street from a park. A small park with big trees! A sparkling creek wound its way through this grove of majestic white oaks. There were huge smooth sided beech trees too, projecting upwards from the steep flanks of little bluffs along the creek.

Autumn in this place fills my memory. White oak acorns bumping along in the creek piled up in little eddies. My hands were red from catching crawdads, a summertime passion only winter-chilled water could halt. A hushed church-like quiet presided over the forest. You could lie on your back, gazing up through the multi-colored leaf tapestry into the sky– blue, peaceful, infinite, and just feel autumn.

Across town, a few miles away, another small park embedded itself forever in my consciousness. Situated on the area’s highest hill along with the city water tower, it supported a lofty pine forest. Yes, they look as large now as they did then. The smell of simmering pine needles permeated the air. There were shortleaf pines with flaky reddish brown bark, pitted with the pitch pockets that distinguish shortleaf from its fellows. The tight dark twisted crowns had a kind of prehistoric look that made me think of dinosaurs. Loblolly pines mixed in with the shortleafs. The misstep of a barefoot boy traversing the pine needle carpet painfully announced the presence loblolly cones. Shortleaf cones are much easier on the feet!

Long before my time the Civilian Conservation Core had created fantastic works of stone in this place. Stone steps curved up the hill to a high carved out nook with a stone bench. Paths led to stone encrusted picnic pavilions with high roofs supported by rustic wooden beams. By my time, much of the stonework had begun to crumble, appearing like the vestiges of some long vanished civilization. My imagination took flight.

As a visitor to this site, you probably have similar memories of trees and forests. This book, The Forests Of Great Smoky Mountains National Park describes southern Appalachian forests and partly explains how they came to be. It is the culmination of a lifelong love of trees and the accumulation of a big pile of memories like those related above.

You can share your tree knowledge and your tree memories here. I’d like to hear your stories.

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About Dan Williams

Forest manager & environmental educator with the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. I have spent 26 years interpreting forest research for non-scientists interested in learning more about the forests of the Southeastern United States.
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