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I Have Never Seen So Many Trees in My Life

Country at HeartAny part of the country is filled with trees. Some parts have more trees than others, and some trees are more common in one part than in another.

For instance, I believe Arkansas has more pine trees than any other place in the world. This southern, forested state just seems to be inundated with green pine trees. It's okay, because pines, just like any other trees, have their purpose.

Actually, pine timber harvesting is supposedly the No. 1 industrial crop in the state. Most people, with any amount of land, have at least one (or a cluster) of pine trees.

I don't know how common hickory is in that part, but thankfully, we had a large hickory nut tree in our front yard. Many people have never eaten hickory nuts, but they are among some of the best wild nuts there are. We certainly ate our share of them and always looked forward to the next crop.

Maple grows in among pine, but I couldn't identify a maple tree to save my life. Those who harvest timber can identify trees, but I'm not that much of a botanist to know the difference. I just know a pine tree when I see one. They are so obvious that even an untrained eye can spot them.

Our all-time favorite nut tree is the pecan. I say "favorite," because its nuts are so good. Although we harvested them, that is not the most fun part of the tree's existence. Eating its nuts is.

Wild peach trees can grow anywhere. There are also commercial orchards that are purposely planted by landowners to grow and sell their yield. I've worked in those too. That kind of work isn't any fun either. The best part about a peach orchard is that it produces big, plump, juicy, delicious peaches.

Apple trees also grow wild and uncultivated. You don't see many of them, but usually if the tree is not nurtured, the fruit is not that good. In other words, the apple is scrawny, tart and not too tasty.

Every fall, Dad took us back in the woods to pick pears from this huge, sprawling, abundantly yielding tree. Sometimes, if we got there a little into the season, lots of pears would already be on the ground. Those are the best, because they are fully ripe and have fallen on their own. Fruit that is fully ripe and ready falls of its own accord. Mother Nature herself just throws them down to the ground when they are full of sap.

Black walnut is another rare nut, but then again, we had a black walnut tree on the side of our house. So, we had two of our favorite trees that bear mouth-watering nuts that were ours just for the picking. Here again, when the nuts get ripe, they, of their own accord, fall to the ground. That is really the only way we could get them, because they usually grow high up on branches. If the nuts do not fall, then there is no other way for us to reach them, but eventually they all fall to the ground.

We also had a horse apple tree in our yard. Mother told us early on not to ever eat those big, green, oozing-with-white-milk apples. She said they were only for horses. If you know what they look like, you'd probably conclude that too. They are so strange looking that anyone with just a little common sense would know not to ingest them.

I was told that sweet gum trees also dot the landscape. Can't tell you what they look like either, but the foresters know.

I think I saw a couple of spruce trees along the side of the road, but I may not have. They are rare and may not even grow in those parts, and perhaps the trees I thought were spruces could have been another variety. All I can recall is that they were not pines, because they were so short, stubby and didn't have pine needles.

And last but not least, there is the dreaded Poison Ivy...actually, it is a vine. The grownups always pointed it out to us and warned us to stay away from it. We didn't have to be told twice. So, you have a sample of Arkansas trees. I'm sure there are many more, but I have no earthly idea what they are.

The view from Hawksbill Crag, Whitaker Point Trail, near Ponca, Arkansas | iStockphoto.com/ABDESIGN 

Photo: The view from Hawksbill Crag, Whitaker Point Trail, near Ponca, Arkansas. iStockphoto.com/ABDESIGN