Author: Linda (page 1 of 2)

Seventh Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Kousa Dogwood – Cornus kousa​

While it might be one of the smaller trees in Bayne Park, the Kousa Dogwood stands out beautifully against the contrasting red-brick building with its vase-shape and horizontal branches filled with a generous bounty of green leaves.

Kousa Dogwood typically flowers mid-May through June. What appears to be pointed flower petals are actually modified leaves called bracts. The four bracts surround the cluster of tiny green inconspicious flowers. Another example of bracts that you may be familiar with are the red modified leaves (bracts) that surround the tiny yellow flowers on a poinsettia.

The flowers and surrounding bracts occur atop tall upward-facing stems which raise them above the foliage giving the Kousa Dogwood tree the appearance of having been delicately decorated with frosting. These stems are most easily viewed from below.

It is interesting to note that the leaf veins curve parallel to the shape of the leaf edges. The leaf edges are smooth and each leaf tapers to a point.

Look closely beneath a leaf and you will surprisingly see yellowish tufts and longer dark strands that resemble hair. These hair-like structures are botanically known as trichomes. They can insulate the leaves to help keep frost away from delicate plant cells, they can help reduce evaporation by shielding the leaves from heat and wind, and they can provide protection from some herbivorous insects.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for a Dad Joke:  What tree has the most bark? (Based on the theme of this post I think you can discern the answer!) As the tree ages the bark develops an exfoliating character, revealing multi-hued mosaic-like patterns.

Reddish fruits appear on long stems in late summer through early autumn resembling raspberries. The spherical fleshy fruit, ranging from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter, is believed to have evolved to appeal to monkeys living in China and Japan. Fortunately there are many species of birds that will feast upon them, and squirrels eat the fruits as well. Fruits landing on the ground may ferment and attract yellow jackets.

The Kousa Dogwood tree is a nectar source for the American Snout Butterfly shown in the beautiful image above by Renee Grayson. They camouflage themselves by perching on a branch while holding their antennae and prominent elongated mouthparts called palps downward like a stem. This posture allows them to blend in and evade predators by appearing to be a dead leaf. Imagine looking at what you thought was a dead leaf, only to see it fly away as a butterfly. Nature is full of surprises!

What do you see in the branches of our Kousa Dogwood tree? With an abundance of leaves that provide shade, wind protection, and cover from rain, the Kousa Dogwood provides a highly attractive nesting site for songbirds. I watched as a Robin flew into the nest presumably to incubate several blue eggs.

The three robin’s eggs shown above are from a nest in my yard in 2018. Eventually there should be some fledgling robins hopping around Bayne Park learning to fly!

Kousa Dogwood differs from the Eastern North American Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) which has rounded rather than pointed bracts, and blooms on leafless branches weeks prior to the Kousa Dogwood’s blooms which appear on branches full of leaves. The green leaves create a beautiful backdrop to the elevated blooms of the Kousa Dogwood.

Small but mighty, the Kousa Dogwood contributes to the beauty of the landscape of Bayne Park year-round.  In spring, the profusion of star-like blooms dazzles the eye.  In summer, shade is provided by the layered branches covered in vibrant green leaves. Autumn coincides with the showy spectacle of bright red fruit and rich maroon foliage.  Winter showcases the patterned bark which stands out beautifully against pristine white snow.

Book Recommendations:

It is the perfect time of year to consult Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning to learn what, when, and where to prune for a more beautiful garden.

On the topic of bird nests, Egg & Nest features photography by Rosamond Purcell. This delightful book is brimming with images that capture the intricacy of nests and the nuances of bird eggs.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Kousa Dogwood tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees. Once Bayne Park reopens, we encourage you to visit the trees in person.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Wednesday 101 – Meditation

Meditation can be simple, and there are so many different ways to try it.

The most common way to meditate is by finding a quiet space to sit while focusing on your breath and relaxing your mind.  Realizing that a quiet space can be difficult to find, here are some other options.

Creative Meditation: Monday Mandala has free Mandala coloring pages that include intricate lines, swirls, and curves of both abstract and nature-based designs. You can also immerse yourself in the creation of flowing digital art using Color Push without printing or using any materials.

Meditative Making: Knit, crochet, or create anything repetitive using your hands while focusing on your breath and feeling the joy that flows from you as you create. Mindful Knitting by Tara Jon Manning contains ten projects complemented by a meditation exercise.

Relaxing Nature Sounds: The Relaxing Sounds of Ocean Waves by Greg Cetus will create a calming atmosphere to encourage your mind to rest.

Walking Meditation on a Local Labyrinth: This type of meditation is perfect for people who don’t like to sit still. You don’t need to think as you walk a labyrinth because there is only one path to the center, and you follow the same path back out to the begining.  Unlike a maze, there are no wrong turns, you simply follow the path.  

While walking the labyrinth focus on the three R’s – Release-Receive-Reflect.  While slowly walking along the path to the center focus on releasing any tension or stress, once in the center pause to receive good energy, and while you are tracing your steps back to the beginning reflect on your experience in the labyrinth.

The Labyrinth at Kearns Spirituality Center was designed and constructed in 2003.  The center features a petrified stone which has been etched with a labyrinth design.

The Homestead Labyrinth at the Pump House is situated just across the Monongahela River from the Carrie Blast Furnaces along the Great Allegheny Passage, the Pump House was once part of the U.S. Steel Homestead Steel Works. Created by artist Lorraine Vullo in 2009, the labyrinth features more than 250 triangular stones, labeled with the names of steel mills, foundies, and blast furnaces from our region.

Book Recommendation: The Best Meditations on the Planet – 100 Techniques to Beat Stress, Improve Health, and Create Happiness in Just Minutes a Day by Dr. Martin Heart and Skye Alexander.

The most important thing is finding a way to meditate that feels right for you. Do you have any resources that help you to meditate? Share with us on social media or email us baynelibrary@einetwork.net

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Sixth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Japanese Zelkova Tree – Zelkova serrata

If you have ever enjoyed listening to a concert being performed on the porch of Bayne Library you may have been sitting beneath our Japanese Zelkova tree with its spreading branches and delicate pendulous foliage framing the view. The photograph above features Ridgemont High‘s performance in June of 2019.

Japanese Zelkova, which also goes by the common name Keaki, is native to Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. It was introduced to America in 1862 prior to when our library building was first built as the home of James Madison Balph and Amanda Balph (formerly Bayne) in 1875.

There is a lot to love about the Japanese Zelkova tree as it provides an abundance of shade and has a graceful romantic form. In addition to being known for its hardiness as it is tolerant of drought, heat, wind, and urban conditions, Japanese Zelkova has been promoted as a substitute for the American Elm tree due to its resistance to Dutch Elm disease. The only drawback is that it does not attract or support much wildlife as it is not native to our region.

The Zelkova tree is Monoecious, which means the tree has male flowers and female flowers in separate structures on the same tree. The above photograph by Kenpei shows the tiny inconspicuous flowers. They are difficult to notice as they are yellow-green and occur in tight groups along new stems. The female flowers give rise to small wingless drupes that ripen in late summer to autumn eventually maturing to brown.

Leaves are simple and alternate with sharply serrated margins. Zelkova leaves can differ in size on the same tree depending on the type of twig and its position in the crown. Fruiting shoots tend to produce smaller leaves with shallow indentions at the serrated edges while vegetative shoots tend to have larger leaves with coarser indentions.

The mature brown drupes often fall attached to the entire twig, with the leaves functioning as a parachute to carry the drupes containing the seeds away from the tree.

Autumn coloration varies, it can range from subtle golden hues to attractive shades of yellow-orange to reddish-brown. 

The bark is typically grayish-brown to grayish-white with numerous lenticels which are small pores through the protective outer bark that allow gas exchange between the living tissue of the inner bark and the surrounding air. The young bark remains smooth for many years but eventually with age it exfoliates into patches revealing the orange inner bark.

Japanese Zelkova wood is valued in Japan and used often used to create Tansu which is traditional mobile storage cabinetry. The wood is renowned for its beautifully dynamic wavy grain and bright yet calming color.

Japanese Zelkova wood is also considered ideal for the creation of taiko drums (like the one shown above photographed by Steve Evans) due to the wood’s hardness and density which gives the drum its particular tone.

Japanese Zelkova tree trunks are hollowed out and carefully chiseled into the shape of a drum. Once the wood has been aged and the exterior has been thinned down to refine the shape using hand-tools, the inner shell is finally carved with precise patterns that are incredibly ornate.  

These beautiful patterns effect the resonance and timbre of the drum. Learn more and take a look at the intricate patterns concealed within taiko drums.  ​

In addition, Japanese Zelkova trees are also popular as bonsai specimens.

Book Recommendation:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees – Eastern Region by Elbert L. Little contains color images of bark and leaves in addition to copious information about each tree type in regards to description, habitat, and range.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Zelkova tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Fifth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

London Plane Tree – Platanus x acerifolia​

Bayne Park’s London Plane tree can be found at the edge of the parking lot near the gazebo with long limbs outstretching towards Bayne Library. It is easily recognizable during any season due to the exfoliating bark which makes its trunk and branches look as if they are covered in military camouflage.

The London Plane tree is a hybrid between two tree species, the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane tree.  Exactly how this combination of species from widely divergent parts of the globe occurred is lost to time, but we do know that the London Plane trees were praised for their ability to tolerate the nastiest smog and grime of London during the Industrial Revolution, and thus they became a hardy option for city and park trees.

 The London Plane tree is so similar in appearance to its American parent the Sycamore, its identity is frequently mistaken.

The flaking bark peels away in sections or sheets, leaving a dappled trunk. This occurs because the bark lacks elasticity. 

Pealing bark helps to clears away pollution that would otherwise block gas exchange through the lenticels, which are small pores through the protective outer bark that allow gas exchange between the living tissue of the inner bark and the surrounding air.

In addition to helping the tree eliminate harmful insects and parasites, the exfoliating bark also discourages vines from overtaking the tree.

New leaves in spring are tomentose (covered in a white layer of matted wooly down) which can persist on the bottom surface of the leaf, with the top of the leaf developing and otter-like sleekness as it ages. The sleekness limits the attachment of dirt and grime onto the leaf surface and allows rain to easily rinse away anything that does attach. This optimizes photosynthesis and the health of the tree.

Female flowers give way to fuzzy spherical fruiting balls, about the size of a ping pong ball, which typically hangs in pairs from long pendulous stalks.  They ripen to brown in October and can last into winter. Each fruiting ball consists of numerous, densely-packed, tiny seed-like fruits called achenes.  As time progresses, the fruiting balls disintegrate as wind disperses their seeds, often in downy tufts. The seeds provide food for wildlife such as Carolina Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Mallard Ducks, Beavers, Muskrats and Squirrels.​

The leaves of the London Plane tree turn a beautiful yellow hue in the autumn.  When the leaves fall look at the base of the petioles, the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem, to see the cup-shaped end which concealed the bud. As the bud increased in size it forced the leaf to fall.

The London Plane tree is valued greatly for its shade and majestic stature, while the wood creates highly sought after lacewood when quarter-sawn. The lacy pattern is due to its cellular structures of medullary rays that reveal dark reddish-brown flecks against a lighter background. Lacewood is used in many fine woodworking projects such as carving, turning, inlays, furniture, and even architectural elements.

Book Recommendation:

Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees by Arborist William Bryant Logan, who trained forty London Plane trees in the central plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art using a historic pruning technique known as pollarding. The technique allows maximum sun penetration in the winter to warm the plaza and maximum shade in the summer for cooling, and also limits the height of the trees to maintain the view of the building facade.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our London Plane tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Nonfiction Spotlight

Reading is important because, if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. – Tomie Depaola

While you are spending so much time at home, you might as well learn that you aren’t as alone as you think.  Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob R. Dunn. 

Proving that truth can be better than fiction, tune into the bizarre Milli Vanilli-esque (I really dated myself with that reference) scenario featured in Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Handyman. (A Memoir)

Delve into the intricacies of the lethal forces at play on Everest ranging from the egos of individuals, pushes by the tour guides toward a successful summit for the betterent of their business record, and communication failures among different groups with Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

You will feel as if you are living through every moment of this local tragedy as you soak up the incredible descriptions of the unfolding events in The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. 

Feeling confined? You may relate to Elizabeth as she observes a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand while she is bedridden due to an illness.  Join her as she gains greater understanding of her own restricted place in the world in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. (A Memoir)

Exceptionally written and powerfully poignant, this is a must read.  Know My Name by Chanel Miller. (A Memoir)

Travel beneath Earth’s topsoil into caves, catacombs, sinkholes, mines, meltwater moulins, and whirlpools in Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane.

Step onto the Appalachian Trail from the comfort of home.  Without even one blister, you  will get to experience all the humor that accompanies the trials and tribulations of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.

Looking for an informative book you can read in short bursts?  Each informative chapter focuses on an extinct or critically endangered species and the scientists who study them.  You will never look at the world the same way after reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Full of unforgettable stories and scientific information about a lesser-known delectable fruit native to our region, Pawpaw in Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit by Andrew Moore will have you longing to go way down yonder in a paw paw patch!

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Fourth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Common Persimmon – Diospyros virginiana

The first part of the Persimmon tree’s latin name Diospyros loosely translates to mean divine fruit. Upon seeing the gloriously glowing orange-hued fruit you may be tempted to take a bite, only to find that your taste experience will differ dramatically depending on the ripeness of the Persimmon.

Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony established in 1607 warns, “If it be not ripe, it will draw a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.”

His statement perfectly characterizes the astringent puckering effect of the tannin contained in the unripened fruit.  

Persimmon trees once stood along Lincoln Avenue.  In the Bellevue Centennial Book, page thirteen features a delightful commentary of local children sharing the fruit with their cousins visiting from the city. ​ 

“When our city cousins came to visit, with their insidious comparisons between city and country ways, our means of retaliation was to escort them to these trees (Persimmon) for a taste…they always choose the plump fruit while we took the squashy.  Our resulting glee may have been diabolic, but fun!”

The fruits of the Common Persimmon are similar in form to tomatoes and roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. You may have seen larger Persimmon fruits like ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Hachiya’ in the store, these are from other varieties of Persimmon trees. Like the tomato, the Persimmon fruit is a true berry containing as many as eight seeds in its pale translucent flesh. 

When ripe, the texture and mouthfeel of the Persimmon fruit is similar to the flesh of a very ripe apricot with a nearly inscrutable nuanced flavor reminiscent of dutch applesauce. An elaborate spice combination called speculaaskruiden flavors dutch applesauce containing a blend of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, anise, and white pepper.  

The Persimmon fruit serves as a not so gentle reminder that patience is a virtue and that good things come to those who wait!

Bayne Park’s Persimmon tree (which I fondly refer to as Richard Persimmons in honor of the 80’s fitness guru) is located in the southern portion of the park and is most easily recognized by its bark when there is not a dusty orange profusion of fruit dangling from the drooping branches. The bark surface is deeply cut into small scaly plates or blocks which look similar to lumps of coal.

The Persimmon leaves are elliptic in shape and are dark green and shiny on top and paler green underneath.

Fragrant, small, white to greenish-yellow flowers bloom in late spring.  The light and powdery pollen is generally distributed by bees but it can also be carried great distances by the wind.

Possums, Raccoons, Skunks, Deer, and birds like Catbirds, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Mockingbirds feed upon the fruit. 

The Persimmon can also serve as a host trees for the Luna Moth, if you are lucky you may spot a female Luna Moth laying brownish eggs in small groups on the underside of one of the Persimmon’s large leaves.

Persimmon wood is used for turned objects, golf club heads, veneer, shuttles in the textile industry, billiard cues, and musical instruments.

During the1993 Masters Bernhard Langer claimed his second Masters win, he was the last player to win a major using a Persimmon driver.​

Book Recommendation:

Who could resist mouthwatering recipes for Persimmon Hickory Nut Bread, Roasted Persimmon Salad Dressing, Persimmon Pudding, and Persimmon Nut Chiffon Pie?  Find these recipies and much more in Eating Appalachia: Rediscovering Regional American Flavors by Darrin Nordahl. It is the perfect book to explore all the unique flavorful foods that are native to our region. 

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Persimmon tree at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!

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Happy Earth Day!

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

Earth Day Imaginative Play

You are a news reporter on television, can you report on some good things that are happening in nature here on Earth?  

You can report from inside your home or do a field report in your yard or along a local trail that is open. Report on the air, birds, trees, insects, and anything growing this spring.

From indoors you can virtually visit the Hays Bald Eagle Nest along the Monongahela River to report on what the eaglets are doing today.

If you record a video of your report and post it online remember to use #baynelibrary when you share!

Check out our Bayne Library Pinterest for our Earth Day board, and our Nature/Science activities and crafts board.

Earth Day Book Recommendations

Miss. Rumphius by Barbara Cooney – The main character is given the task to make the world more beautiful – encourage children to draw an illustration or write about how they will make the world a more beautiful place.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss – Young readers will experience the beauty of the Truffula Trees and the effect of taking our earth for granted in this playful and hopeful story.  Just one small seed, or one small child, can make a big difference. 

Women in Science Rachel Carson by Anne Rooney – From a small town in Pennsylvania came a little girl named Rachel Carson who would one day author the book Silent Spring which documented the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is recognized as the environmental text that launched the environmental movement. In fact, her voice is one of the main reasons Bald Eagles have returned to our region!  

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Third Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

River Birch – Betula nigra

The River Birch is easily recognized with its attractive rust and buff colored textural peeling bark that provides the perfect backdrop for its golden hued autumn leaves. The leaves are double serrated, wedge-shaped, and sharp pointed. The lower leaf surface is a lighter color than the upper surface which creates a dazzling display of shimmering contrasts when the wind flutters the leaves.

One of the wondrous aspects of trees, is that they attract a variety of wildlife. Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers drill holes into the bark of River Birch trees in their quest for…you guessed it…sap!

Sap wells made by these Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers attract squirrels, insects, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I keep the color-coded field guide Birds of Pennsylvania by Stan Tekiela on my window sill which is an excellent reference to help identify birds!

The River Birch is the host tree for the Morning Cloak Butterfly. You may observe the caterpillar dining on the leaves as it grows.

Some birds have been known to use strips of the peeling bark in the construction of their nests, and many birds delight in finding insects to eat amid the delicately rumpled bark.

The River Birch is monoecious, with both male and female flowers borne separately on the same tree. On the left below you can see the male flower bud and the dangling male flower catkin. The female flowers are short, conical, and woolly which ultimately form into the green cone shaped fruit called strobiles. The seeds in the fruit, called nutlets, are dispersed by the wind and water once the strobile has become dry and turned brown.

The River Birch is often planted ornamentally, like the tree at Bayne Park. In the wilderness, the River Birch is important as a pioneer species as it quick to colonize disturbed areas and is excellent at controlling erosion. It thrives along river banks and uses a clever method along with special timing to distribute its seeds most efficiently. Most trees (including other birches) produce their seeds in late summer or autumn, but the River Birch is ahead of the game when its seeds ripen in May and June. Perfect timing as the seeds are swiftly moved by the high water which floats them downstream where they can germinate the very same season.

The seeds are also a food source for nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, sparrows, towhees, tanagers, grosbeaks, cardinals and finches.

As you know in April we celebrate National Poetry Month! Although my favorite Robert Frost poem is After Apple-Picking, he also wrote the poem Birches the topic of Birch trees. As he mentions a snow-white trunk in the poem we know he was referring to Paper Birch trees. I recommend the book A Swinger of Birches: poems of Robert Frost for Young People for children ages 4-10 as it includes poems about birds, trees, flowers, people, and land with full color full page illustrations. Adults will enjoy the book Early Poems by Robert Frost.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our River Birch tree at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back for the next post in this weekly series every Treesday Tuesday!

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Outdoor Exploration for Insects

Today we are sharing tips, activities, and a nature journaling prompt that highlight the theme of our Nature Backpack – Insects!

Spring is a wonderful time to explore for insects in your yard or along a hiking trail. All that’s required is curiosity, and you may already have some things that can enhance your child’s exploration!

Encourage them to make collection containers using materials you have at home like tiny glass jars or yogurt cups. A magnifying glass can be helpful for seeing small details and binoculars can be used to watch insects pollinate flowers from afar.

If you have an old white t-shirt, dish towel, or pillowcase, allow them to take it outside and lay it flat on the ground.  Show them how to collect handfuls of leaf litter (old dried leaves) to place on top of the white material.  As they sort through the leaves they will likely see some small insects against the white background. Perhaps they will even spot springtails!

Help them to safely look beneath stones and under any fallen branches or small logs. Closely investigate the ground and the stone and log surface.

If you are along the edge of a pond, creek, or stream you may see some insects in their larval form like dragonfly nymphs and caddisfly nymphs by looking beneath rocks that are submerged or by sifting through the mud with a mesh pasta strainer.   

If they find something interesting, provide a paper and a pencil to your budding entomologist so they can start their own insect nature journal, one page at a time.  They can include a drawing of what they found, write where they found it, and what it was doing.  It is more important to observe the insect than it is to know its name. Children love having a mystery to solve! Later they can research based on their observations and include its name, a fun fact, and what it likes to eat!  

Please visit our Insects, Spiders, and Worms board on our Bayne Library Pinterest for additional resources and inspiration.  

You can find the insect themed nature backpack in the library catalog. Adding the backpack to your list in the catalog is a great way to remind yourself to put it on hold to check out in the future.  There are eleven different backpacks with various nature themes!

Each backpack contains a collection of materials that help children learn by exploring local parks and natural areas thanks to a collaboration between the Allegheny County Library Association, the Allegheny County Parks, Allegheny Land Trust and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

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Second Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

Horse Chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum

In 1920 twelve trees were planted in Bayne Park as a memorial to the 11 soldiers and 1 nurse from Bellevue who served and died during WWI.  In 1921 three more trees were planted and plaques were attached to all 15 trees to commemorate the fallen heros of Bellevue. Although the record does not define the type of tree planted, it is likely the original 12 trees were Horse Chestnut trees that line both sides of the walkway through the park.

The common name for this tree may have come from the historic use of its seeds to treat horses for overexertion, colic, and coughs in Turkey and Greece. In addition, the scar remaining on the twig when the leaves fall resembles the shape of a horseshoe complete with nail holes.  

The buds of the Horse Chestnut are renowned for being sticky. The stickiness helps hold the huge bud together and provides water resistance. Once the sun warms and the bud opens you can see the leaves and the structure of the distinctive flower that were once held within the bud. 

Known for providing shade and being ornamental, the flowers of the Horse Chestnut grow in tall spikes (or panicles) during the spring creating a showy candelabra display of delicate pink and white flowers.  The flowers stand upright similar to candles on a Christmas tree.

Blossoms emerge white with yellow in the center, but the blossom center turns from yellow to pink once it is pollinated. The white flower below has a pink center indicating like a stoplight to insects that it has been pollinated.

The leaves are palmately compound, in the drawing below you are seeing one leaf comprised of 7 leaflets.  Palmate is defined as having several lobes (typically 5 or 7) whose midribs all radiate from one point. By thinking of the palm of your hand with fingers spread out wide, you can remember the general form of a palmate leaf.    

Hard spiny fruit the size of golfballs fall to the ground, and they split in October to release the shiny brown seeds known as conkers overseas. They are used in a popular game where a conker is threaded onto a strong leather cord and then each contestant attempts to break their opponent’s conker by hitting it with their own. There is even a World Conker Championship in the United Kingdom within the picturesque county of Northamptonshire, in the village of Southwick.​ 

Horse Chestnuts are poisonous to humans, do not eat them!

It you find yourself inspired by the beauty of the Horse Chestnut tree, you can admire it from within your own home by decorating with wallpaper featuring the unique flower panicles and compound palmate leaves!

I recommend the powerful picture book The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window written by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by Peter McCarty. Told from the perspective of the Horse Chestnut tree outside Anne Frank’s window, this book introduces her story in a gentle way to a young audience.  The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Horse Chestnut trees at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees! We encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

As we intend for this to become a weekly series, check back for a new post next Treesday Tuesday!

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