I’ll tell you right off that what this letter is not, it is not about dendrology-- the study of trees, and a subspecialty of botany. No, what this letter is about is the Ironwood tree. The Ironwood tree can be found over much of the Eastern United States and Canada. Any good book on dendrology can help you identify this tree if your woods are in the area and range described above. The tree is not a flashy ornamental tree, in fact you might call it humble, or even nondescript. You could miss it entirely on your trek in the woods if you are not specifically looking for it. This tree does not tower over others, nor does it display brilliant colored leaves in the fall like a maple or an oak. There are no brilliant yellows of the aspen when it sheds its garment in the early fall either. Sometimes it is called Hop Hornbeam, as it’s catkins resemble the hops used in beer making. By the way a hornbeam is the yoke that oxen in the Old World wore which was fashioned from this tough old tree. At other times it is simply called leverwood which is almost self explanatory. Don’t be put off by scientific hoopla and take the time to look this tree up in whatever reference source you use. It is worth a look.
It is the character of the tree that I wish to examine, and its relationship to human character. I am not sure whether humans resemble trees, or vice-versa. The point I am making is that there is a relationship of living things to the human race. Character, is just that, character. All living species have it. Character is endemic in all things, animal, vegetable and maybe even mineral,--- if you look at the Zen of life. So though the Ironwood tree may be humble, it is an essential species and one that the human would be wise to emulate. Afterall, trees are not simply just trees.
Till next week,