Saturday, April 9, 2016

Juneberry Surrogates

Tall, taller than we know
bur oaks to be out West, where
they’re scrub-like or
bigger and low-branching, but
never sixty, eighty,
a hundred feet tall!
No wonder I never looked up.

But why should I?
Early April is early spring and
greening bursting buds are
too far away, too high.
Instead I walked through muted shade
and close straight trunks—
gray, brown, black, cracked, furrowed.

Then just fifty feet ahead at exactly eye-height,
spots of brilliant white flashed, and I saw
clouds of flitting white moths ...
two wild plums, still
bare of leaves,

Last week I drove 500 miles east to where more precipitation lets trees grow tall. The “real world” and all that’s “important” soon faded. Six days were more than enough to repair my frame of mind and far from enough to make me homesick, but of course I came back anyway. We never learn.

In the draws were respectable hardwood trees, quite unlike our undersized versions. On the ground I found leaves of bur oak—I had no idea they grew so tall!—and American elm, and occasionally black walnuts split in two (Quercus macrocarpa, Ulmus americana, Juglans nigra). I may have passed basswood unawares (Tilia americana).

Wild plum (Prunus americana) is an old friend, from lower-elevations in eastern Wyoming. I see it has similar habits 500 miles east—growing most commonly in thickets but also as small understory trees, and blooming before leafing out. The flowers are said to be ill-scented; apparently I’ve not been close enough to notice. Ripe plums are sour but always a treat to find, as they’re often destroyed by our early frosts. I suppose the eastern ones are more plentiful.
Flowers are about one inch across.

This is tree-following week, when The Squirrel Basket kindly hosts a virtual gathering and we share news (check it out). But here in southeast Wyoming we had three March blizzards and then I left, so I’ve not been back to visit my juneberry. The trees I so enjoyed last week are surrogates.


  1. Oh, beautiful images of the Wild Plums blooming! What a great find in the woods! I love Bur Oaks, and of course the big huge ones are quite common here, where Oak Savanna was the predominant plant community way back when. 500 miles east--were you in Omaha? or Western Iowa?

  2. Beautiful subdued colours in your images!
    I'm glad there is some life there after the snow :)

  3. Thank you for posting your poem. There is something otherworldly about tall trees overhead. What a journey you undertook. Lovely plum blossom.