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While walking the Paw Paw Trail one of the most enjoyable things to do in Charlotte, I encountered one of our youngest visitors staring into the sky. Always seeking an opportunity to hear about an outdoor experience at the Museum, I asked what had caught her eye. After pausing a moment, she proclaimed with a smile, “Some, big, old trees!” Pleased and curious, I inquired what specifically captured her attention: a bird perched up high on a branch? A collection of leaves exploding with color?

She responded with a shrug that she “just loved looking at the big trees.”

Thinking about my own love for these pillars of the forest, I continued my stroll. Thankful for the dense canopy on the trail shielding my path from the afternoon sun, I was stopped in my tracks by the remnants of a once mighty Oak. The victim of a recent storm, it had to have been a hundred years old when it tumbled to the ground. Covered in a lush blanket of moss and brimming with bracket fungi resembling steps, this once vibrant sapwood had the spring of a sponge. Inching closer, I noticed a flurry of carpenter ants, native sedge growing tall around the edges and random holes most likely left behind by beetles.

After a lifetime as a forest filter providing shade and shelter, this big old tree was now a nurse log supplying moisture, food, and sanctuary to insects, amphibians and plants. A hub of energy, this big old tree was returning to the ecosystem, thanks to the help of the F.B.I (fungi, bacteria and insects), while providing the base and nutrients for new plant life. Slowly dissolving into the earth, this big old tree was quietly breathing life back into the world.

I too enjoy looking at the big old trees on the trail. What do you love most about trees?

Naturally Speaking,
Lisa

Director, Charlotte Nature Museum

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