Saturday, June 13, 2020

Naming Trees

all the trees have names,
both family and genus
on small brass plaques at the base of each …
looking once like any other
burlapped ball of roots
when it was lowered to earth
those decades after the war. (1)

Tree-following sometimes becomes a struggle in identification (2). If we don’t know a tree’s name, don’t know its kind and all the information that goes with that, may we follow it? Sure, why not? But of course we feel a little guilty, and still hope to learn its name.

The tree I chose for 2020 has partially revealed its identity. With its elongate clusters of flowers and small fruit, it looks like a chokecherry. But the leaves differ from our native ones (Prunus virginiana). Is this a landscaping cultivar? I will check with the City arborist, whom I recently met (more below).
Leaves on sucker shoots are more chokecherry-like.
In the photo below, do you see that the left side of the crown is a bit droopy? A large limb broke with the heavy wet snow we had about a week ago. Unfortunately, all our trees had leafed out, so now the town is quite a mess with downed branches, especially from cottonwoods. Cleanup is underway.
Broken limb.
Cones and truck signal cleanup underway (note branches under cottonwood/poplar).

Next I visited the puzzling tree with maple-like samaras at the Art Museum, which I considered following earlier this year. It's now leafed out, in flower, and filled with busy insects.
Flowers not unlike maple flowers ... but leaves?
These sure look like maple samaras!
It’s puzzling because the leaves don’t look like maple leaves. Or so I thought.

But then two trees with names showed up in my yard. Please meet Winter King Hawthorne, Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’.
And … FANFARE!! … here's the dazzling Hot Wings Tartarian Maple, Acer tataricum 'GarAnn' PP 15023. Note the leaves on this maple!
These young trees reside in my yard courtesy of Rooted in Laramie. Laramie's arborist helped select locations. Tiger Tree did the planting, complete with stakes, mulch, slow-release water bags and trunk protectors. Through the fall, there will be in-person health-checks and e-mail reminders about caring for my new trees. All this for just $50 US per tree! I'm grateful to all the local businesses and organizations that contributed.
Two pros had the trees in the ground in no time.


(1) “Naming the Trees” by Bruce Guernsey was inspired by the national cemetery at Gettysburg. Read the entire poem at Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry (thanks to Tom Rea of for sending it).

(2) We tree-followers pick a tree to follow each year. We report on it monthly, in virtual meetings kindly hosted by The Squirrel Basket. Read the latest news here. Consider joining us! Jump in any time.


  1. Hello Hollis, that's an interesting trail to identify your trees. In trying to identify my populus for the first time I saw photos of the fluffy seed pods and learned that a common name is cottonwood, I have often heard and read about cottonwoods but did not know they were populus before. I thought I had identified my populus but doubt has reared its head, so back to the search.
    Your weather is amazing, from snow so heavy it brought down branches to a week later walking through the park in shorts and vests.
    Your new trees look beautiful, I hope they will bring many years of pleasure for you and local wildlife. Frances

    1. Hello Frances, though everyone talked wide-eyed about that snow storm, it's not so uncommon. We had one about a dozen years ago, with much worse damage. We've had quite the wind lately which brought down more limbs, but my young trees are doing fine ... flexibility of youth?

  2. What a lovely selection of trees. i don't think you need to know what a tree is to enjoy it and to follow it,

  3. Fascinating! Like tracing your own family tree, as it were.
    I read the whole of that poem - it gave me a tingle at the end when it was, I think, suggesting the trees have names but the fallen soldiers buried there do not.
    Sorry to make you rush to meet the deadline, when to be honest I am a bit lax in closing the linkbox down on time these days.
    I am very surprised you still have snow!
    Take care :)

    1. Thanks, Pat. I don't read poetry often but every now and then one really grabs me, like this one. It was haunting. Amazing how well sparse words can speak.

  4. Amazing turn around in the weather.
    I think I specially enjoy it when tree followers don't know what tree it is they are observing and it gradually become clear - sometimes after several months.
    Very pretty pictures at the top of the post.

  5. Thanks, Lucy. I figured you would be fine with it :)