We have had some very pleasant days in the past few weeks where an evening walk was an absolute necessity. As my family went up and down the streets in our neighborhood, we noticed that the trees near the curb weren’t all the same. Some had broad, flat leaves, while others had needles. We discovered many other differences from tree to tree.
My husband and I really enjoyed sharing the nicknames for the seeds, or fruit, the trees produced. We both agreed that the ones with “wings” that seem to fly and spin downward from the tree should appropriately be called “helicopters.” You would most commonly see these on a maple tree. However, the spiny, green husks that you find on a chestnut tree were always referred to as “aliens” in my house. No particular reason why, they just seemed “otherworldly” to me.
A resource that would’ve been helpful for us to have open on these walks would have been one you can easily find on the Delaware County District Library website. Simply visit www.delawarelibrary.org/research and click on the “What Tree Is It?” link.
“What Tree Is It?” is provided by the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) and the Ohio History Connection to help identify native trees to Ohio. Questions and picture guides help guide you to an answer based on your starting knowledge of the tree. You can begin with a leaf, a fruit, or by the common or scientific name.
If you don’t want to bring technology along during your next nature walk (I don’t blame you), see if you can gather leaves or fruit that have fallen from the trees to examine once you get home. Be careful, though, both poison sumac and poison ivy occur in Ohio. You may want to begin your nature lesson before you leave the house, so you are also educated about what not to touch or bring home.
On our walk, we identified at least five different types of trees growing in our neighborhood. A fun project with your school-aged children could be to create a neighborhood map and indicate which trees grow where. It’s a hyper-local version of geography and could help with map-reading skills.
Earlier this summer our Nature & Science Books newsletter had a special focus on insects. Here are a few that may be worth the “buzz…”
• “Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them” by David MacNeal. Meet the insects, the overlooked, underappreciated 75 percent of the animal kingdom that for over 400 million years has been profoundly shaping life on Earth. Did you know? Insects outnumber humans 1.4 billion to one, pollinate 80 percent of the plants that feed us, and recycle our organic waste.
• “Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees” by Thor Hanson. A conservation biologist’s celebration of bees. While most bee-themed books focus on honeybees, this one includes species ranging “from leafcutters and bumbles, to masons, miners, diggers, carpenters, wool-carders, and more.” Armchair entomologists may also enjoy Paige Embry’s “Our Native Bees,” which examines North America’s insect pollinators.
• “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology” by Lisa Margonelli. Read this book to learn about termites, our “underappreciated overlords” whose activities keep the planet running. If you’re feeling brave, try Brooke Borel’s “Infested” (about bed bugs) or Rob Dunn’s “Never Home Alone” (surveying some 200,000 common household species).
• “Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects” by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson; translated by Lucy Moffatt; illustrated by Tuva Sverdrup-Thygeson. Presents an entomologist’s engaging, ultimately hopeful meditation on the importance of insects, enhanced with delicate pencil illustrations. So why DO we need them? Without them, the planet would die (and, with it, us.)