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Nonfiction

Joanna Brichetto Field Trip Leavings One of the things I love about Warner Park’s Meadow Tree Trail is how it can accommodate a walker who is both inquisitive and lazy. I am proof. The trail starts near the Nature Center and meanders between woods and driveway, flanked by trees young enough to offer low branches for inspection. Buds and leaf scars are usually within reach. Most trees wear name tags. In between, requiring no extra effort, no additional travel, I am kept company by wildflowers galore, including passionvine, milkweed, snakeroot, wingstem and goldenrod, all in the fruiting stage now and a banquet for seed-eaters. Today’s goal was to fondle fallen leaves of the 51 specimens on the Meadow trail. Well, my bigger goal is still to know trees—every part of every tree—how a tree looks, smells (and tastes, when appropriate); how people and animals use it; how it functions; where it’s from; where it grows best. Everything about a tree, really. I’ve come to the right place. Examining fallen leaves is one path to knowing. I see how the colors change, I feel the textures above and below—a roughleaf dogwood is aptly named—I notice the stems, how a leaf behaves once it’s down. Sycamore leaves lie like soup plates in the grass, with stem-ends so big and hollow they could be goblets for Barbies. Sweetgum stars point from leaf litter in reds, yellows, browns, eggplant purple: so many colors they look like paint chip samples at a messy store display. Hackberry leaves curl themselves into nearly nothing. Winged sumac leaflets are impossibly red: absolute shockers. On the way to the trail, I squatted by the wonder twins: the two 15/16 backcross “Legacy” chestnut babies bred to be as American as apple pie but as blight-resistant as Chinese chestnuts. I can only imagine the decades of work that resulted in these 64

The Fourth River O.3: Fall 2016  
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