Tree Olympics

Back in a different universe on a planet far, far away, I once competed in gymnastics. I never became too proficient at it, but it brought me great joy. It was the adrenalin rush that most teenage boys need at that age, and the uniforms were chick magnets.

I’ve been mesmerized by the recent Olympic gymnasts at the London games, and the absolutely jaw dropping tricks that deny both gravity and physics. Now the scoring criteria has changed since I donned the always too tight stretch pants, and gasoline was only 35¢ a gallon.

In the olden days, everyone was awarded a score of 10 before they even performed their exercise. Then during the performance the judges would subtract points for what you didn’t do, and how well or poorly you did the tricks you did perform. In other words, form and execution.

By now you are probably scratching your heads, wondering what the hell this has to do with living in the north woods?

Welcome to the Child Lake Tree Olympics! It is an event where I will judge each and every species of tree I have to mow around in our way too big yard.

I know you went from scratching your head to rolling your eyes. Trees AGAIN? But this time were going to separate the good guys from the bad guys. So hang in there.

I hope this will be a bit fun and a bit educational. (Take notes because there may be a quiz.) I’m changing the scoring a bit by using an additive instead of subtractive method. A max score is 15 based on three criteria.

1. Aesthetics: (0-5 )  How visually pleasing the tree species is.

2. Yard Compatibility: (0-5) Is the tree friendly, or a pain in the aspen?

3. Value: (0-5) Does the tree have benefits when no longer vertical?

Got It? Shall we start the competition.

 First up. . . .

The Eastern White Pine.

AES…5  YdCom…3  Val…3

This is the flagship tree of the north woods. It commands attention by size and beauty alone. Not a great yard tree. Branches snap easily under wet big snow. Roots grow on surface causing chipped teeth during mowing. No firewood value really, but can be milled into high quality lumber. (11 pts)


The Paper Birch

AES…5   YdCom…4   Val…5

Easily the most identifiable tree in the yard if not the northland. Grows singularly  or clumped. Tends to mound up at base.  A strong breeze and it sheds like a sheepdog in August. Great fall color. Yields good firewood and comes with it’s own fire-starter! (14)

                              The Black Ash

AES…2   YdCom…3   Val…4

This is actually a swamp tree, it likes it’s feet wet. Slow growing, but has beautiful interesting wood with a darker grained core. Produces great fire wood. In the yard though… it be ugly.  I think it’s slow growing because it’s lazy. It’s the last to leaf out in the spring and the first to drop them in the fall. If a robin lands on a limb, it dies…the limb, not the robin. (9)

The White Spruce

AES…5   YdCom…3   Val…2

This one of my favorite conifers – to look at, that is. When they mature the drooping branches take on a Spanish Moss like appearance. We are on the southern edge of this tough spruce’s territory, that grows to the arctic circle. Their major drawback is that their octopus like root structure fans out across the ground the same diameter as the branch spread. A lawn mowing nightmare and I have a stack of ruined  mower blades to prove it. (10)

                                                        The Basswood

AES…  3      YdCom…2    Val…2

This species is right in the same category as my dreaded Balsm Fir (6). It only edges it out due to it’s perfume-like fragrance when it flowers in late June and early July. One can smell it from a great distance. It has the same nuisance root quality as White Pine/Spruce. It jettisons branches even on a windless day. The wood is of little use to me unless I take up the guitar and whittle my own. I’ve written the International Society of Arborists to petition to have the “B” dropped from it’s common name. (7)

That concludes Day One of the tree semi-finals. Stay tune for the conclusion and eventual winner. So keep your toes pointed and stick the landing.

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