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Being specific (about trees)

I'm currently re-reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I first read it in college so it's been a while. Yesterday, I got to the chapter/essay titled "Be specific" and it reminded me of the fact that I know absolutely nothing about trees or plants. In fact, it couldn't have been more than a few weeks ago that this topic came up with someone (I can't remember who) and I told them that my great-grandmother had all the garden and plant knowledge and had taken it all with her!

Natalie's point on being specific in your writing is that you don't just call it a tree. If it's a dogwood, know it's a dogwood and call it by name. She writes, "About ten years ago I decided I had to learn the names of plants and flowers in my environment. I bought a book on them and walked down the tree-lined streets of Boulder, examining leaf, bark, and seed, trying to match them up with their descriptions and names in the book."

Of course, I was reading this while sitting at the kitchen table and looked out the window at the trees in my backyard that have been unidentified and underappreciated for the almost fifteen years I've lived in this house. I decided to get out there with my iPhone and take some pictures and then do a bit of research. Armed with a PDF of the All-Season Pocket Guide to Identifying Common Tennessee Trees and the ability to do endless Google searches to try to absolutely be certain of what I am looking at, I believe I now can specifically identify the three types of trees that are in the little patch of woods behind my house!

First, I believe this is an ash tree. There are several of these back there.



Next, I have several Eastern Redcedar trees. I'm glad these are back there because they stay full year round and help give us a bit of privacy and noise-reduction from the state owned salt storage building that is right behind us. It stays pretty busy in winter. 




Finally, this one was tough to identify. It seems like it could be one of several possibilities. I think I have it narrowed down to being an American beech tree.



Who knows. I could be wrong about one or all of these. Please comment if you have other guesses. As I said earlier, yesterday I knew nothing about trees and today I know just a little more than I did yesterday!

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