Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tale of a tree

Just beyond the warped ruins of my backyard fence, reminder of a hurricane's wrath,grows a sapling. I think it is hickory.

I'm not a tree expert but the leaves, pinnate and large, suggest that.

Today, after cyber-visiting Kat's lush Georgia forest, where She seems to know every frog, every insect and every flower, I resolved to better know my own East Coast forest.

I might as well let slip a harmless fact, a little bit of my identity. I live in Virginia.

That wasn't so hard.

So anyway, although my time was short tonight, I stepped into the Virginia forest for a moment and contemplated that possibly-hickory sapling.

I'm not a tree expert but I love trees. And there is much to love about a hickory.

Like most members of the walnut tribe, it bears nuts and its foliage is very fragrant.

Most species in the genus, Carya, produce edible nuts, including the famous pecan. I learned tonight that the Native Americans made a delicious cream from the nut oil, which was used in most of their cookery. Their word for this delicacy gives the tree the name by which we know it.

To figure out which kind of hickory this little tree is, I'm going to have to count the number of leaflets in each leaf, observe the bark as it grows older and pay attention to the way its leaves bud out in the spring.

Hickory, along with oak, elm and chestnut, was a king of the primeval American forest, but like them, suffered heavily at the hands of my European ancestors. However, it's not OUR fault that this genus,which once ranged as far as Africa, long ago receded to just the American continent and the eastern edge of Asia.

Update: Whence the genus name, Carya? It derives from Artemis Caryatis, an epithet of Artemis, that was derived from the city of Karyae in Laconia; there an archaic open-air temenos was dedicated to Carya, the Lady of the Nut-Tree. The particular form of veneration of Artemis at Caryae suggests that in pre-classical ritual a Carya was a goddess of the nut tree who was later assimilated into the Olympian goddess Artemis. [Wikipedia].

5 comments:

...Kat said...

applause to your grand adventure and I hope to be learning so much from you as you explore and research the brave and beautiful landscape out your way

-Jeane Michelle Culp said...

A journey of natures knowledge to be learnt from, how refreshing! Do keep us posted on your adventures; perhaps the butterflies, birds, etc. that romp and play in your neck of the woods. Enjoy!

Molly said...

As usual, a fount of information! Trees are one of my favourite things in the world. One of my daughters,the wilder one, lived in a tree in the redwood forest in N.Ca.for a short spell in her wilder times.As a protest against Mr. Bush's policy of allowing those ancient,beautiful trees to be chopped down and shipped to Asia...

Nadiyya said...

Ahhhh... I should be better at enjoying Norwegian and egyptian nature, I am afraid I am too used too it :(

Melanie said...

happy monday. glad you got "back to nature".