Monday, October 28, 2013

Ginkgo biloba

For three years, I’ve been going on tree tours alone, and my daughter has been asking to go. Finally, this past weekend, I took her on her first tree tour at the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs. Except for one other eight-year-old, the attendees were all adults—many older than me. A number were devotees of Ed Richardson, the grand master of trees in Connecticut. (I’ve written about him previously here and here.) But this isn’t about Richardson or the trees that he talked about; this is about my daughter looking at trees.

At each tree that the group stopped at, my daughter would listen for a minute or two to Richardson’s wavering voice, but then some other tree nearby would catch her attention, and she would wander off, armed with her camera. (For the record, she took 102 photos during the two-hour tour, and I took 89.)

UConn’s arborist, John Kehoe, was on the tour as well, and my daughter asked him about seeing a ginkgo tree. Serendipitously, we were at that moment standing about thirty feet away from a blazing yellow gingko. Kehoe pointed at the tree and told her to go get a leaf. She came back with one, beaming. Into her pocket it went—along with an assortment of other leaves, acorns, and cones. Her pockets swelled with treasures; her camera filled with photos.
Later, Kehoe pointed out another ginkgo—this one completely green. She collected another leaf sample and asked the tree expert why one tree was all yellow, the other all green. I didn’t hear Kehoe’s answer, but later she explained to me that it was because the green tree was older, more established, with a more extensive root system. (Yes, she said established and extensive. She pays attention.)

She also asked where the biggest ginkgo in Connecticut is, and Kehoe told her it is in Hartford. Later, I asked her why she liked ginkgo trees. “Because there are no other trees like them alive today,” she told me. “They’re dinosaur trees.”
Later still, apropos of nothing, she said, “You know that champion ginkgo tree in Hartford? I want to go see it.”