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A Nature Journal

Experience the natural world with east central Illinois master naturalists

If I were a tree, what would I be?

Posted by Maddy Kangas -

Great White Swamp Oak           Ginko                                             Beech

Each of us has a favorite "heart" tree. Whether you remember climbing a weeping willow as a child, planting a small apple tree and watching it grow, or pausing in a hike under a glorious oak or maple, most of us sense a satisfying alignment and affinity to special trees.

Don't we "walk taller among trees?" Even as fall colors fade and leaves fall, we seem to notice the silent sentinels around us more. What tree would you be? Daily I walk by a dead Sassafras that overlooks a pasture and serves as a perch for hawks, just one tree I visit on a zigzag meander among my favorite trees.


Tree hikes in the C-U Park District abound, some self-guided, some guided by volunteers or staff members. Stop in at nature centers for suggested walks and guides. Master Naturalists often have their favorite Tree ID field guide handy. Urbana's State Street Tree Trail provides a downloadable illustrated brochure that neatly fits in a pocket. For ease of identifying local trees, the Morton Arboretum has a colorful online guide with photographs of leaves, seeds, and bark. A spectacular parade of big trees lines University Avenue in Champaign. In Danville, visit the Spring Hill Cemetery; in Decatur, Rock Springs Conservation District has several upland and bottomland trails.


On a very cold January morning more than 50 stalwart parka-clad hikers (plus boy scouts) gathered to walk Allerton's Sangamon River trail for a guided bare tree ID hike. The turnabout point was a huge old sycamore.

For gardeners and homeowners, strolling through a park releases you from practical tasks like raking leaves or clearing out the garden. With "nothing to do" you have the leisure to see, photograph, draw, touch bark, balance in yoga's tree pose, or maybe even hug a tree. Make an appointment all year long to check in on your favorite trees. Breathe in inspiration, breathe out tensions. Refresh yourself. Just BE with a tree.
Karen Clarkson, MN intern (2015)

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