For almost a year I’ve followed a serviceberry tree 30 miles south of town, out in the Laramie Basin. What a surprise to find a serviceberry in a land of grass, sagebrush and greasewood flats! It was on the north side of a small ridge of tilted sandstone, in a tiny “forest” with aspen and cottonwoods, enjoying shade and tapping into water that accumulates in fractured bedrock. Yes, geology is destiny.
But too often I found it inconvenient to visit the serviceberry; I guess it exceeded my distance limit for convenience. So yesterday I set out in search of next year's tree in town, on the University of Wyoming campus. There were plenty of candidates.
My favorite was a palm. Yes, a palm tree in Laramie! It’s a plants-and-rocks kind of tree, specifically a plant in rock. But there’s no point in following this palm tree—it never changes. Or rather it hasn’t changed in the last 52 million years.
|One of the many palm trees that grew on the shores of Fossil Lake 52 million years ago.|
|Fossil Lake was small compared to others, but the record it preserved is astounding!|
|Above and below, beautifully preserved veins (click on images to view).|
Outside the museum, I wandered among the conifers that dominate university landscaping. They aren’t exactly exciting. Being evergreen, they don’t change much through the year. But one stood out—an unusual Colorado blue spruce next to the geology museum. It supplies cones to the resident Tyrannosaurus rex.
|The amazing vegetarian T rex.|
But amazing enough for a full year? Maybe not.
Next stop was the Williams Conservatory, where I entered a warm humid green world.
Another candidate was a fig tree, only about six feet tall. I love fig trees! The leaves have beautiful forms with contrasting shades of green, and fresh figs are really tasty. But since there were only a few figs, a taste test probably would be discouraged.
A stand of bamboo caught my eye. Bamboo is woody, and I’m fascinated by the idea of grass as tree. But it never blooms (I asked).
Two trees had the characteristic compound leaves of the legume family, with many leaflets neatly arranged. They made wonderful patterns against the roof of the atrium.
Lead tree’s simple but beautiful bark.
I explained my mission ("tree-following, an online thing") and waited for a reaction … “Cool!” So I asked which tree she would follow: “strawberry guava” (no hesitation). It blooms several times a year, and produces edible fruit which I would be welcome to harvest for photography and tasting. In fact, it was blooming yesterday …
… and there were fruit, too. They looked brown and dry, hardly tasty. But I was assured there would be plump yummy red ones later on.
Then I saw one!
So will I follow a strawberry guava in 2017? I'm not sure. That lead tree, with its photogenic leaves, is hard to resist …