I’ve always enjoyed trees in one way or another – climbing them as a kid, eating their fruits, using them to build tree houses, etc. As an adult, I still enjoy and appreciate trees for their beauty and benefits. Can you imagine our parks, roadsides, schoolyards, and landscapes without trees?
Trees were everywhere in my small hometown in Georgia. I remember two large pecan trees growing on either side of our driveway. As a child, I claimed one tree as my own, and my twin sister claimed one as her tree (and I better not touch it). But, I not only touched it, but I also climbed it, too. It wasn’t the best climbing tree, though. But It produced the best pecans. I think that’s really why she picked the tree.
I remember a large black cherry tree in our backyard. It was a good climbing tree. It was one of the tallest black cherry trees I’ve ever seen. Some birds like the ½ inch fruit produced by black cherry trees. The seeds will go through their digestive system, remain viable and then germinate from bird droppings. This is probably how the tree I climbed got its start.
There were many other types of trees in our yard. We had various fruit trees, including peach, plum, apple, and pear. While in high school, I had the responsibility of caring for the fruit trees. Actually, I volunteered to do this because, at the time, I was involved in FFA and agriculture, horticulture, and forestry classes. We had an outstanding Vocational Agriculture and FFA program at my high school.
I remember cracking black walnuts with a hammer on our concrete drive to get to this nut’s “meat.” By the time the extremely hard-shell breaks into tiny pieces, you’re left with small bits of walnut meat to carefully pick through and separate from the bits of shell. My mother planted the tree. She collected a single walnut and planted it. It grew into a nice tree, but I don’t think my dad cared for the tree. The walnut fruit with husk included is about 2 inches in diameter. Most years, a bearing tree will produce an abundance of walnuts to be picked up off the lawn and driveway. This was the case with our tree. My dad usually had the job of picking up the walnuts.
Arbor Day allows everyone to celebrate, recognize, appreciate, and plant trees. Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday in January. I encourage you to take time to enjoy the trees around you, and if you can, plant a tree. There just might be some child that will remember you for doing so.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County