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The Garden Scoop

When I am among the trees...

While it's true that I find any gardening/plant-related /horticultural topic fascinating, there's nothing quite like sight of an old, majestic tree to really feel a sense of awe for the plant kingdom. I think it's really interesting to sit beneath a hundred-year-old tree and imagine the path it took from a tiny seed to become the impressive specimen it is today. While I will always find trees interesting, they may benefit us more than we realize.

In fact, a recent study from the University of Minnesota suggests that everyday access to nature improves the quality of life in older adults. According to researchers, "a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health." One great way to get out and enjoy our natural areas, and positively impact our health in the process, is to go on a tree walk.

A tree walk is more than just a quick tour of your local park. You can learn so much by taking the time to analyze and correctly identify different tree species. You begin to be able to notice the amazingly diverse shapes and arrangements of leaves, small and subtle differences between different types of tree bark, how different soil types and weather conditions affect a tree's growth rate. With this new found knowledge you can amaze (or in my case – annoy) your friends and family with amazing fun facts about trees!

For a fun field trip, check out the tree walk at the Bunker Hill Historic Area at Kennekuk County Park in Vermilion County. This site has a diverse selection of many trees native to Illinois. Click here to download a copy of the Tree Walk Map.

I'll leave you with the following lines from the poet, Mary Oliver:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

The speaker here doesn't simply enjoy trees. They know that trees, like people, possess unique features that can only be truly seen upon closer inspection. So get out there, find some trees, and maybe you'll even feel better in the process.