I love walking around outdoors and observing different trees, flowers, and wildlife. Many times, as I walk around, I notice plants, many of them trees, that I have never seen before. Curious, but not curious enough to research, I passed by the unidentified species day after day and let myself walk around with the concept that “a tree is just a tree.” One day last week, though, I started to have questions about the trees on my school campus. In class we had been assigned to pick a subject to observe and write about and since trees have always brought questions for me, I decided they were what I would research.
My questions started out basic. What is the tree variety like at WCC? When did the trees that are here get here? As often happens when asking simple questions, the more I found out, the more I wanted to know. I soon found myself wondering newer and more in depth things about the trees. A question that had been popping up in my mind time after time revolved around the origins of the trees. Which trees were native and which were non-native? I went on a search for native and non-native trees in Michigan, and found plenty online, but none that I could locate on campus. While walking on campus, I had an idea. I decided to take some pictures of different trees outside, that I did not know the origins of, and look them up on the internet or in books. One tree in particular caught my eye that day. The Ginkgo tree had very interesting leaves that I had never seen before. Their flat, spread out, shape along with their interesting texture drew my attention away from the other trees and made me curious. Not only did I find out that this tree can have a very distinct rotting smell, it’s leaves turn a very vibrant shade of yellow in the fall, and it can live up to 1,000 years, but also that this tree was originally from China (Stang, Gingko biloba).
This non-native tree was exactly what I was looking for because it showed uniqueness and gave me a chance to explore. Finding this tree not only made me interested in finding out more about it’s “roots” but also has helped encourage me to search for other trees on campus that could possibly have similarly interesting backgrounds as well. Overall, from these last couple of days the main takeaway for me is that a tree is not just a tree. It has a history and possibly, like some of the Ginkgo’s, thousand year stories to go along with them.
David Stang. (2012, July 14). Ginkgo biloba (Common Ginkgo). In ZipcodeZoo.