Rich in trees

Diane and I have plenty of money, but we’re downright rich when it comes to trees. I’m 51 years old, so nothing much surprises me anymore, yet every day I marvel at the trees.

We have oaks — red and white — some old and gnarled like the rest of us, congregations of them on the hillsides, others young and solitary in the fields.

We have basswoods, or lindens, some three feet in diameter, others in thick clumps, falling down one at a time like matchsticks in a children’s game.

Ash grow everywhere, but the one in the middle of the woods is as big as any I’ve seen, a granddaddy of a green ash.

We have walnuts, with leaves growing opposite from a common stem, a kaleidoscope against the blue sky and white clouds.

We have elms — slippery and American. Some grow in the open, their branches veering up and out like a vase. Others grow in the woods, reaching out of the understory.

Close to the river, where the floods come up each spring, grow twisted willows and silver maples. Their lower branches reach down then curve out toward the river to catch the sunlight. Their yellow leaves float down the river in the fall. Rows of silvers planted long ago by our farm house give us sap for syrup in the spring.

In the woods are sugar maples — a handful of old ones and hundreds of saplings springing up to take their place. In 50 years they’ll dominate the drier parts of the lower woods.

We have ironwoods that make a ceiling under the roof of oaks. The sun comes through the soft leaves, and a rich green light glows. Where the ironwoods grow, few buckthorn or prickly ash clutter the forest.

We have pines — red and white. The reds, planted before we moved in, struggle to survive, but the whites, most of which we’ve planted, seem to love it here. Some grow three feet a year, and in no time are taller than a house.

We have spruce and fir, but only a few, and quaking aspen by the thousand.

We have towering cottonwoods with massive trunks. We have box elders, sprawling and sprouting shamelessly.

We have woody shrubs: alder, elder, hazel, juneberry, gooseberry, sumac, and others I can’t name. Someone who lived her before us planted lilacs, honeysuckle, crab apples, and hawthorne. We’ve added apples, cranberries, plums, and cherries. Wild cherries grow in the woods, wild plums in the fields.

We have tamaracks that Dana planted, and red cedars that were a gift from my brother-in-law. Another red cedar showed up in the hayfield one year and is now 15 feet tall.

A few common Minnesota trees don’t grow on our property: white cedar, big-tooth aspen, jack pine, red maple.

I don’t mind. We’re rich enough.


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