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Something Wild: The Challenge Of Choosing A National Tree

If today's installment of Something Wild fell to my NH Audubon cohorts, it would be easy to feature our national symbol, the Bald Eagle--perfect for patriotic Fourth of July! Instead, "NH Forest Guy" wracks his brain to make a tree connection to our nation's birthday. All I could come up with is that bottle rockets are affixed to wooden sticks and that firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are constructed and packaged using cardboard and paper--all derived from tree. No trees? No fireworks!

We do have a National tree: the oak. Appropriately enough, it was elected by popular vote back in 2004, but in typical congressional fashion, the bill side-stepped the issue of which of the more than 60 species of oak would be the best choice for an All-American arboreal ambassador. Picking one national tree must have been a sticky situation because of the diversity of American trees, each adapted to regional climactic conditions, weighs against singling out one single species. Each region has strong cultural affinities and historical relationships that make "State Tree" designations far easier. 

Credit Logan Shannon / NHPR

  What we really need is a delegation of trees--a wooden House of Representatives, whose delegates might include a California redwood, an Ohio buckeye, a New Hampshire paper birch, the charter oak from the Constitution State and a George Washington, "I cannot tell a lie," cherry tree? 

Great Britain once coveted New Hampshire's tallest white pines for masts for their Royal Navy. Our nation's independence might not have been won without the utility of wooden ships, maple rifle stocks, and the leafy shelter of forests in which to hide, rest, and defend. Happy Independence Day!

Naturalist Dave Anderson is Senior Director of Education for The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, where he has worked for over 30 years. He is responsible for the design and delivery of conservation-related outreach education programs including field trips, tours and presentations to Forest Society members, conservation partners, and the general public.
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