One needs to look no further than the Blue Ridge School interpretive trail to see a most unusual and fascinating tree – one that has been formed by the combination of three different tree species!
Years ago, the seeds of three very different native species must have landed in the same location. While it’s impossible now to know exactly how this happened, I can guess that the seeds were blown by the wind, dropped by squirrels or maybe intentionally planted by a BRS boy. The rich soil and abundant sunlight helped the trees grow together and ultimately combine into one tree.
Different trees have different ways of growing, which adds to the unusual formation of our tree. The American Beech portion of our tree has a lot of branches on its main trunk, and the American Sycamore portion of the trunk has split as if it’s looking for more space. In the center of these two is the Sugar Maple, which has grown straight with very few lower branches. I interpret this arrangement as the American Beech being the bigger brother, the American Sycamore as a younger brother trying to reach personal freedom, and the youngest is the Sugar Maple under the protection of its two older brothers.
The American Beech is a deciduous tree local to Eastern American forests. It normally grows up to twenty to thirty-five meters tall with smooth, silver-gray bark. The Beech has simple and sparsely-toothed dark green leaves. Its wood is often used for flooring and furniture.
The Sugar Maple is also a deciduous tree native to the eastern U.S. and Canada. Blue Ridge School is on the edge of a natural range. The average height of Sugar Maples is twenty-five to thirty-five meters, but some grow as high as forty-five meters. Healthy Sugar Maple trees can live four hundred years. The Maple is famous for its sap, which may become maple syrup. Maple tree foliage is famous in the fall for its bright colors.
The American Sycamore is a native to Virginia and parts of the southern Appalachians. Sycamore trees usually reach thirty to forty meters high and two meters in diameter. In an urban environment, the Sycamore is often planted as a shade tree. Its wood can be also used for making furniture, musical instruments and siding.
Note: This blog entry was an assignment in Mr. Cory Woods’ Environmental Studies class. He asked his students to write a blog inspired by those of Lisa Deaton (a forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry).
Her blog can be found here: myvaforest.org.