The Red Oak: An Old Friend

In my absence from my blog, I have been enjoying numerous hikes around the Grand Traverse region. And during these hikes, I have been quite taken with the myriad tree species that call Northern Michigan home. Both conifers and deciduous varieties coexist among the rolling hills, the pristine shores and secluded wetlands. It is this species richness that helps define the natural areas of Northern Michigan.

An Old Friend

Amidst these varieties is the Red Oak. A remarkable tree that bears red leaves come Autumn, the Red Oak is one of my favorite oaks. In this blog and subsequent ones, I will highlight some of the trees in the Grand Traverse region I find unique, beautiful, interesting or a combination of the three.

Of particular interest to me is a Red Oak located not far from home. Located along the Pelizzari Natural Area (Grand Traverse County), this tree has a special place in my heart. I cannot explain it, but every time I approach it, a sense of peace and calm enters my being. I feel a certain magnetism to this tree. The tree feels like an old friend that you can rely on to wipe away the worries of life. Does anyone else experience this?

I took my old adventure buddy, Orson, along to visit the Red Oak. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

A Bit of Ecology

I recently visited my old friend, and was happy to see acorns being produced among the lower branches. Generally, trees do not produce seeds during years of hardship, as the energy resources must be allocated elsewhere. The acorns I could locate were quite large and well developed.

One of the defining characteristics of the Red Oak is the acorns produced, of which vary in shape from White Oaks, for example. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

These acorns represent so much: evolution, DNA, natural selection and to some degree…luck. These little pods of material contain the blueprints to an ancient tradition: growing, thriving and reaching towards the heavens above.

Not only do trees grow stretch their limbs towards the sky, they also spread, or travel, across the land. Each year, any given species of tree in a natural habitat make their ways across the land. Much like other species on Earth, they move towards areas that will allow their numbers to proliferate. For example, conifers in areas that rely on a cooler climate have been heading north, in an attempt to reach an area that provides the climate they require. Trees are an amazing example of success.

What may seem so simple is in fact quite complex. On the surface, the Red Oak may seem unmoving, uneventful and boring. But in actuality, there is much going on that humans typically do not notice (recall my last blog post regarding the perception of time…). Aside from the leaves opening up upon springs arrival, and them proceeding to fall off when Autumn relieves Summer of its duty,  the  diurnal life of trees often goes unnoticed. But there is much happening! Roots below ground are performing complex chemical reactions and competing for resources. Inside the trunk, xylem and phloem work to keep the tree supplied with all the food and water needed to sustain life. And above, the leaves are performing photosynthesis. And of course, one of the products produced by this process is oxygen. Carbon is converting into sugars.

Thanks to these leaves, the tree can collect energy to store away. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

An Aesthetic Appreciation

Science and ecology aside, I find my old friend to be beautiful. What is designed for pure function also pleasing to the eye. The lines of the branches, the symmetry of the leaves, and the elegant grace of the trunks all leave me in awe.

This particular Red Oak is split at the base. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Lichen grows unencumbered among the decaying branches.  (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
This Red Oak is quite old, showing its age by the branches decaying in the shade. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

Next time you are out and about, take a moment to admire a tree that has caught your eye in the past. Feel its bark, inspect the leaves, and bask in its perfection. You may just make a new friend…

-Adam K.

*Images captured with a Kodak P-880

*Interested in visiting this Red Oak? Locate it using these coordinates: 44.786961 degrees Latitude & -85.570836 degrees Longitude. 

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