Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tree hugging at Stadium Woods, Value of city forests

                                    Me hugging a tree in "Stadium Woods" behind Lane Stadium at VA. Tech.

     I was walking with some students who were helping to clear away some "invasive" (nonnative) plants at the base of different trees in "Stadium Woods" when we decided upon a break at the far end of the woods to get something to drink. On our way to the other end of Stadium Woods, behind Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium, I came upon a rather fat tree. I suggested to some students, hey, let's reach around this tree to see how big it is. It took a little over three people, their arms totally stretched out, to reach around this old oak. Of course it's big. It's 300 years old!
     Old growth forests are not associated with cities. Forests with fat old trees make you think of the West coast, the redwoods in their temperate rain forests. It doesn't make you think of the East coast, which has been cut down and settled for much longer than the West coast. But yet, right next to a busy university, is a small forest, with mostly white oaks someone left standing, perhaps to have a supply of wood for building homes long ago. We may not fully know why, but Stadium Woods next to VA Tech's Lane Stadium is unique. I think we have a bit of a "ho-hum" attitude about trees. They will always be there. With Dutch elm disease attacking many elm trees and hemlocks failing because of the woolly adelgid, maybe not. We need to hang onto to the old trees we've got before they are all lost.
     While weeding the nonnative periwinkle (vinca) and English ivy out of the woods, I pointed out to the students the mayapple plants would soon produce a fruit. It is highly important as it is actually used in treating testicular cancer (in a particular formulation, of course, in congress with another drug). And the dandelions they saw were edible--- use the leaves in a salad, or boil the root for tea. Though bitter tasting, it is great for detoxing the liver.
     Yes, being out in the spring and helping a place like Stadium Woods was a worthwhile outdoor, Saturday  diversion.

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