Trees, names

May 23, 2018

I found a Wikipedia gem today: the Tree of Ténéré, once the world’s most isolated tree, “so well known that it and the Arbre Perdu or ‘Lost Tree’ to the north are the only trees to be shown on a map at a scale of 1:4,000,000.” How strange and delightful. It’s on a list of named trees, which I stumbled upon while looking for a guide to the common names of trees. It’s been kicking around in the back of my head for a while that I’d like to learn more of the names of things. I once worked on a vegetable farm, but I still can’t identify most of the plants I walk past on a regular basis. It feels like a layer of awareness that I am missing. I could learn to recognize plants without knowing what they are called, of course, but it seems much harder to operate in that direction. The name is a key to a part of the world.

That reminds me of a book I came across when I was younger, a guide to trees which allowed you to find out what a particular tree was via a choose-your-own-adventure mechanic – are the veins in the leafs branching or parallel? How many lobes do the leaves have? How do the leaves cluster on the branches? Illustrations clarified each of the choices. I think I only used this book once, for a school project, so it must have made quite an impression. It was the novelty of the lookup mechanism, I think. I was accustomed to looking words up in a book to find their meanings, but looking up plants by their structure to find their names – that was exciting.