Name That Tree!
March 27, 2013

I’m going to go out on a limb here (excuse the bad pun!) and assume that at some point winter will exit and spring will arrive with warm weather, colorful flowers, and leafy trees.
 
When it does, pick up a copy of “Knowing the Trees of Cambridge” by Aline Newton and Florrie Wescoat to inspire great arboreal teaching moments. You can download the booklet from their site for free or pick up a copy at the main library.
 
Of course, these particular kinds of trees are not found only in Cambridge, but the map directs you on a self-guided tour around the Cambridge Main Public Library,Joan Lorenz Park, Rindge and Latin School, and surrounding streets. Each of the trees along the route has an identification nametag on it, so even if you know nothing at all about trees, pairing this walk with the guidebook is a great introduction.
 
The 25-tree tour begins with the weeping willow found at the entrance of park and ends at the library. Depending upon your family’s pace, count on at least an hour’s walk.
 
Each tree description in the guidebook is full of fascinating tidbits. For example, a mature weeping willow tree can bring up as much as 400 gallons of water a day through its roots and the Douglas fir was not discovered by anyone named Douglas and is not a fir! If you have a dinosaur fan in the family, he or she might be interested to learn that the Dawn Redwood is considered a living fossil, dating back 135 million years, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. We have the Goldenrain Tree (native to Asia) in the United States thanks to Thomas Jefferson, who received seeds from a friend in France and planted them.
 
The leaf rubbings may be my favorite feature in the guide. Taken by one of the authors from each and every tree in the book, these rubbings are great inspiration for an activity you can do with your kids—either with leaves you collect in Cambridge or in your own back yard. All you need is a fallen leaf, a piece of white paper, and a pencil or crayon. Simply place the paper of over the leaf and rub it gently over the leaf.
 
Perhaps your kids will even want to make their own guidebook of the trees found in your neighborhood!
 
More Tree Fun!
The Arnold Arboretum has a “Tree of the Month” activity (March features the witch hazel) which has kids look for the tree in the arboretum and hunt for a hidden letterbox.
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Feed the Birds: Set up a bird feeder (you can make a simple one by spreading peanut butter on a pinecone). See which types of birds come; have the kids keep a log of their visits.



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