Since we started this blog in December, 2020, we have posted about 84 weekly articles about Delaware grist mills and the northern Sussex County flora and fauna.
Besides contributing to, and editing this blog, I do all the tours of Old Abbott's Mill. Occasionally, I also help teach nature education classes as one of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center's teacher/naturalists. I also love walking and working on our wooded trails, probably because I've always liked trees. I grew-up in Oregon and Northern California and the town we lived in when I was in high school is now headquarters for the Redwood National Park.
Visitors to AMNC often ask what kind of tree this one or that one is. When I first became involved at AMNC I was very unfamiliar with the trees in Delaware, and I couldn't always give an answer. So, I got some tree books and I began to educate myself. I'm still learning, but I'm getting better at it.
I also felt that there was also a need for our visitors to be able to easily identify our native trees, so several years ago I put together a 14 page “Tree ID Guide” booklet.
In the guide are drawings and short paragraphs listing the common and scientific names of the 68 trees most likely to be found along our trails. I also assigned each different tree species a number, 1 thru 68, and I made up several hundred little plastic tree-shaped number signs that I placed along our trails next to representative trees of each species.
The idea was, visitors could stop by the Nature Center and pick-up a tree guide before they walked the trails. When they came to a tree with a number next to it, they could look up that number to find out a little about that type of tree.
But apparently visitors are reluctant to ask for a guide book, so I’m now working on my “Plan B”. I talked with Karen at K & R Graphics and Signs in Woodside, and we came up with a design for new decals that I can put on the tree ID signs. Each one has the assigned number for that tree, as well as the tree’s common and scientific names. And, they'll be printed in a bright, green color that really pops!
The only problem is; there will be a lot of time and work involved in designing the 68 different decals, and the total cost is going to be over twelve-hundred dollars. I’ve already come up with donations totaling four hundred and fifty dollars, so now I’m asking you, our readers, if you would care to make a contribution for this project? If you would, you can write a check for whatever amount you’re comfortable donating to: "Abbotts Mill Nature Center" and either send it or drop it off at the Nature Center. Please write “Tree ID Project” in the check note. When we reach our $800 goal, I’ll send out a special post and let everyone know that we have enough money. and I'll move forward with this project. The address is: Abbotts Mill Nature Center, 15411 Abbotts Pond Rd, Milford, DE 19963.
In doing this project, I’ve learned a lot more about the trees in our 376-acre piece of Milford Millponds Nature Preserve. One tree that I was interested in identifying, because I had never actually seen one, was the Witch Hazel, Hamamrlis virginiana (#43). I was intrigued because it is perhaps the only tree in Delaware that blooms in the fall. I asked all our other teacher/naturalists to keep an eye out for one, but after looking for over a year, an excellent specimen was discovered within 20 feet of the Nature Center!
Another tree I accidently discovered, just last fall, is the Osage Orange, Maclura pomifera (#36). While non-native, they are still fairly common in Delaware, but I had never seen one on AMNC property. Then one day while setting up for a mill tour, I noticed one, out in the open, right in the middle of the mill dam. It was like, I couldn’t see the trees for the forest.
As a side-line to this project, a scout from the Magnolia troop recently earned his Eagle Award community service requirement by extending our Tree ID trail all along the 5K Blair’s Pond trail. He also had about a hundred and fifty small tree signs made out of aluminum! (For some reason squirrels like to chew on the plastic signs.) Thank goodness for scouts, boys and girls.