Hello Fellow Humans on the Path. I hope you have had time to select the tree friend you plan to observe. Maybe you chose one of our showy friends, like the sugar maple or Kwanzaa cherry, or the mighty oak. I selected one that grows beside our lower deck. Anne and I sit on the upper deck every chance we get and have many opportunities to observe this friend. It was a bit challenging to identify, as it has many common features. This is the Black Gum. Sometimes in identifying trees it is important to stand back and get the whole “gestalt” of it, the shape, how the limbs grow. This one has limbs that grow at a 90-degree angle or even droop down and that is its main distinction. Can you see in the photo how the limbs are pointing down and not reaching for the sky?

The Black Gum is not used much for firewood because of its intertwining fibers that make it difficult to split. This also makes it unappealing to use for making furniture. However, the trunks often become hollow and bees love to make their hives there and other critters love to use it for shelter too.


This is what it looks like now in the autumn. The leaves are slightly shiny and beginning to turn red. The Robins love the berries and sit high up in this tree having a berry party every evening, much to Anne’s dismay. The berries do tend to stain the deck blue and it is easy to step on them and smear them all over. So, it isn’t the best friend to have so close to the deck.

None the less, I do love this tree. The tree has been there much longer than this house and the builders pushed a lot of dirt high up onto its trunk years ago, shortening its life span. In effect it began a slow process of suffocating the tree. Imagine being buried up to your neck in sand. Right! Not a pleasant thought. A tree needs to have its roots closer to the ground and to have the “flare” showing – imagine where your ankle joins your foot and that area is the “flare” of a tree. This area should be free of soil, mulch stones or anything really. So, I began the process of digging a huge hole around the tree all the way down to where the roots and flare began. Then I had to build a slatted walkway over this hole so we didn’t fall in as we went about our daily chores and the tree could get air and water. That was eight years ago, and our friend continues to thrive!

I would love to hear about your tree friend. Send a photo and something about your connection to your tree. I would be happy to post it here in the VOICE of THE TREES

May the Forest be with you.