Posted by: ktzefr | January 30, 2011

Turning trees into art…and 6 fun facts to know

“To plant trees is to give body and life to one’s dreams of a better world.” ~ Russell Page

Tree decked in Spanish moss, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

(Be sure to double click on photos to enlarge and use the back arrow to return to post.)

A few facts about trees:

1) An oak tree in Solebury, Pennsylvania is more than 500 years old.  It was named the Columbus Oak because it predates the arrival of Columbus to the New World.

2) The oldest living thing east of the Mississippi is believed to be an Angel Oak on John’s Island, South Carolina, which is about 1,400 years old.

3)  The etymology of the word ‘true’ goes back to the old English word for ‘tree.’  A truth, to the Anglo-Saxons, was a “deeply-rooted” idea.

4) The Iroquois believed that each species of tree had its own spirit.

5) There are 7,500 known varieties of apple trees in the world.

6) Although Americans are linguistically, culturally, and historically allied with Europe, the eastern United States’ closest botanical affinity is with China.  There are many instances in which only two species of a genus are known — one in eastern US and the other in China; for example the Tulip tree, Kentucky Coffee tree, the Sassafras, and the Lotus Lily.

Kentucky’s trees…

The pioneers often wrote about the vast wilderness that surrounded them in all directions.  General James S. Brisbin wrote in 1888 about such a scene: “For four years I had lived on the plains surrounded by sage-brush and sand…then I was ordered east with troops, to Kentucky…. I was in the sleeping-car when I heard the soldiers in the forward coaches cheering…they were cheering because of the trees.  We all hastened to the doors and windows, and there…found we were running through a grand old Kentucky forest…. It was beautiful beyond description.”

Early morning fog rising from Kentucky hills...

In my book, To Come and Go Like Magic, one of the characters, Cousin Lenny, says he has read about a tree in Pippa Passes, Kentucky that owns itself.  I don’t have a Cousin Lenny, but the story about the tree is true.  In August of 1918 Ms. Alice Lloyd (the same for whom the college is named) and a friend secured the official papers to deed a sycamore tree, christened the Free-Budd Tree, to itself so the loggers who were active in the area could never cut it down.  For the tree story, click HERE.

*Tree facts are from Enduring Roots: Encounters with Trees, History, and the American Landscape, a wonderful “tree” book crammed with stories, facts, and fun by Gayle Brandow Samuels.


I love trees — the real ones, as well as photos, paintings, sculptures.  Fruit trees, evergreens, willows.  The tall sweetgum with its miserable little sticky seeds in my front yard and the lovely umbrella-shaped hophorn beam out back.

When I was in Kentucky last fall we stopped for a short visit at the Cumberland Gap National Park — the first great gateway to the west and still a beautiful spot in the mountains.  We met Jack Rogers, a woodturner from Huntsville, Alabama, who was demonstrating his craft at the visitor’s center.

Jack Rogers, woodturner

Jack does lovely work…

My favorites were the hollow-turned vessels, and I especially liked the ones with small chunks of turquoise fitted into natural cavities in the wood.  Some pretty designs were made with Norfolk Island pine with turquoise and Silver Maple mistletoe burl with turquoise and pheasant feathers.   Check out more of Jack’s artwork with wood HERE. (Be sure to scroll to the end and click on the various designs — bowls, gifts, etc. — to see all the pretty possibilities.)


I’m hoping for a cloudy day on Wednesday so the groundhog cannot see his shadow.  I’m ready for spring, for the trees to come alive again  — for the cherry blossoms to bloom in DC, for the jacarandas to bloom in the mountains of Mexico, and for the redbuds to bloom in the Kentucky hills.

What blooms in your neck of the woods?


Jacarandas, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: