Have You Seen the Tree?

Message From The Director

Well, we have had quite the winter here in South Carolina. We set records not only for low temperatures but also for the duration of those low temperatures. It’s enough to give anyone cabin fever and have you longing for spring. Now before you put away those flannel shirts, scarfs and long johns and pull out the flip-flops and t-shirts, take time to enjoy the winter!   In fact, let this be the beginning of a new way to enjoy your parks, and nature, through the seasons. One way to experience the seasons of our state is through our trees. Trees often provide the backdrop to picturesque landscapes and frame iconic features like lakes, rivers and trails. Trees. Yes, trees.  I am sure you have noticed, but just in case you haven’t, they are everywhere! Sometimes that is the problem, because they are so numerous we too often barely give them a second look. 

I have been fascinated with trees since I was a child. In fact, some of my fondest memories are climbing the large pecan trees at my grandparents’ home and creating a home with my cousins inside the largest Deodar cedar in the world- ok, maybe not the world but it was huge! The limbs were perfect for climbing and even setting up a room just for me. Now that I know the importance of trees in my professional life, I can’t help but be intrigued by their presence. 

Here are some interesting fact about trees:They devour carbon dioxide! Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. We all know that, but the volume is remarkable. In a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 equivalent to a car driven 26,000 miles. Impressive! And the oxygen they produce?  Four people can get a day’s worth of oxygen from one large tree. Oh, and there’s the water! In the United States, watersheds protected by trees provide water to more than 180 million people. Impressive. While these facts are important, what I love most about trees is that they speak to us on our daily journey if given the chance. They provide life lessons, give us a sense of place and guide us through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives.  

One of most visible trees perhaps does this better than most. The dogwood is one of the first signs of spring, with its beautiful blossoms of white on leafless branches announcing new birth, renewal and warm temperatures. The flowers fade and its layered branches and green foliage provide steady sanctuary for birds and cool breezes.  Fall soon approaches with the same brilliance as spring for the dogwood, being among the first trees to show fall color. Its leaves turn a deep crimson red accentuated by enchanting berries that turn bright red about the same time as the leaves change. The berries stay as long as the birds will let them. Then back to winter where the dogwoods, like most deciduous trees, bear their souls. On its branches, detailed bark appears more like a sculptured piece of art than a tree. 

It’s a new year, and time to experience trees through the seasons.  You won’t be disappointed. I have so many favorite trees in our state parks, I’m sure you have come across them on your travels. If not, be on the lookout for them.  The cedar at the Huntington Beach parking lot, with its character lines and grace. The 600+ year old stately oak that stands guard to the entrance of the Legare Waring property at Charles Towne Landing.  The mystic oak at Myrtle Beach that is as beautiful in the winter as the summer, with its limbs appearing like arms welcoming you into its soul. The Washington Oak at Hampton, Magnolia Lane at Redcliffe, the massive hemlocks at Jones Gap, the “witness” trees at Musgrove Mill. You’ll find yourself asking your friends: “Have you seen the tree?” You may get some strange looks in the beginning but once they see your tree, they will get it. This year, share your journey in parks with a tree, you won’t be disappointed. 

See you in the parks!