Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I spent a good bit of my Labor Day weekend walking my dogs around a couple of large parks in suburban Maryland. There, I spotted a small army of flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida), several black walnuts (Juglans nigra), and stand after stand of trees that my untrained eye cannot identify past “oak” (Quercus consult-the-field-guide). I spent time in the butterfly garden above a clear lake that provides drinking water to thousands, and woods that seem too wild to be 10 miles from DC.
In a few weeks, there will be a group of geography students gathered at one of these parks to collect seeds from the places that mowers would otherwise cut them down. Those indigenous seeds will be handed-over to a partnership of nonprofits and state agencies to be sprouted and ultimately planted around the watershed. The new trees will grow to produce clean water, create food and habitat for wildlife, and build the biological bank of indigenous plants.
Collecting seeds will serve as a great opportunity to work directly toward a sustainable community, while providing a venue to address the concept of sustainability more broadly. Students will get their hands dirty and learn something in the process. These opportunities exist in every community, and it’s not necessary to be a scientist, an entrepreneur, or an activist to make lasting, positive changes. Sometimes, all it takes is gathering seeds to plant them where they might grow.

Image: Portrait of Shitao Supervising the Planting of Pine Trees: after Zhu Henian's Copy of Shitao's Self-portrait; Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.


one and only hypnos said...

That's a good initiative. There's nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty now and then and getting some field and hands on experience.

Pat Jenkins said...

oh the treasure and miracle of biology. a wonder to behold!!

E. R. Dunhill said...

I've been struck by how easy it is to find opportunties to make a tangible difference in the community. Even small groups can have a dramatic impact.
The organization I write about in this post, The Potomac Conservancy, is a fairly small, regional conservation group. Through a network of volunteers, it has collected tens of thousands of pounds of native tree seed since the program began in 2001. At a single 3-hour tree planting back in April (one of many this year), volunteers planted 250 trees in a city park. This is simply one group among many.

E. R. Dunhill said...

It is indeed a treasure.

Sue said...

What a lovely project.

One spring a few years back, the maples in my yard (a species native to this region) put forth an unusually large number of winged seeds. This event also coincided with us being unable to get around to lawn mowing for an unusually long time. The result, our entire 3/4 acre yard was covered from end to end and side to side, with three inch maple seedlings. With great difficulty I convinced my husband (who is in charge of all things "yard" related) that he could leave unmowed a three foot wide, 12 foot long strip of these tiny seedlings. For years, now we have left this patch of ground untouched, and watched the natural competitive process. Several of the young trees are now twenty feet high, while others have been crowded out. Our only regret is that we didn't leave more such "experimental tree farms" to flourish that year.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I'm glad to hear you're encouraging local trees on your land. I always think it peculiar how homeowners in my part of the world seem to shun trees, particularly "boring", indigenous ones. The city I live in still has a problem with people clearing small lots of their 50-year-old trees to build McMansions. And, curiously enough, one of my neighbors had a massive old sugar maple cut down in order make room for a little twig of a hybrid ornamental apple. I'd imagine that it never occurred to them how much that tree would save them in cooling their house. Trees are valuable biological machines (and they save homeowners some effort with mowing).