Historic Places in South Jersey

Historic Places in South Jersey - Places to Go and Things to Do

A discussion of things to do and paces to go, with the purpose of sharing, and encouraging exploration of South Jersey.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Arbor Day - Noteworthy Trees of New Jersey

First off, if I asked you if you had a favorite tree, would you answer yes?  Then, I would ask what made it your favorite.  My favorite of recent years is the one around the corner from me on Northmont Avenue which is huge and has a twisted spiral trunk.  It is an impressive personage altogether. 

However, I have met other famous and noteworthy trees too and on Arbor Day, they deserve a mention.

First, of course is the Salem Oak, in the Friends Burial Ground in Salem, NJ.  It has been designated the Millennium Landmark Tree of the State of New Jersey.  It is said to be (according to Brittanica online) 500 years old and was planted about the time that John Fenwick estqablished his colony in the Salem area.  I have visited the Salem Oak many times over the years, but, sadly I have not visited recently.  So here is my notice from the universe that it is time to go and say hello.

The second tree I'd like to note today is the Pygmy Pine, a dwarf variety of Pitch Pine that is found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  It is said that the wildfires that rage periodically through the Pine Barrens have caused the stunted growth of the Pygmy Pines.  You can find them down off Route 72, which you may recall is the way to my favorite spot on earth, Pakim Pond, in Brendan Byrne forest, formerly known as Lebanon State Forest.  I go down 295 North to Rt. 70, then follow 70 straight through 2 circles.  At the 2nd circle, you will find route 72. 

I haven't been there for a long time, but I think 72 was also the route I took to Albert Music Hall.  Which reminds me of a song, "In the Pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines."  My favorite version of that song was sung by Kurt Cobain, unplugged in New York and available on You Tube.  It is chilling.  Another favorite is "On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine."  That song was written aroun d1913 and was popular during World War I, but, even before that, it was a novel written around 1908, written by John Fox.

I love trees and have always felt that they are like people in another atomic and molecular arrangement.  The ones in my yard are like neighbors to me and I thrill each year when their leaves unfurl.

A WONDERFUL book about these botanical miracles such as the leafing of trees is Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.  I read a review of it and have been delighted by the book for the past few days while I was laid up sick with a terrible head and chest cold. 

One of my fond memories of childhood was moving from the Charles Dickens like brick factory/prison-like school I attended in Philadelphia a true asphalt jungle, to New Jersey,to a school with a grassy playground and a corner where a boy showed me a shrub that produced roots that smelled like rootbeer.  He said it was sassafrass.  One day, after our kind and gracious teacher, Miss Heal, had rehearsed us for several days, we opened the windows of the school and sang the Joyce Kilmer Poem "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree."  While they planted a tree beside the sidewalk in front of the school.  They did this for several years and the trees still thrive there. 

Today I had lunch with thirty old classmates, all of us went to Maple Shade grade schools, then Merchantville High School.  Several of whom remembered Miss Heal and Arbor Day at our school.  We also practiced another archaic and charming holiday traidition, the May Pole Dance.  My mother sewed me a blue skirt, and along with a number of other girls in blue skirts and white blouses, I took my place holding a long strand of fabric tied to the top of a May Pole, and several boys and we girls, danced around the Maypole in a configuration that caused our long strands of white and blue fabric to weave together. 

So that is my entry for Arbor Day and for May Day.  Hope you go to visit the Pygmy Pines and I hope you have had  a favorite tree in your life!  Happy Trails!  Jo Ann

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