Studying trees in Fall: A visit to the Morris Arboretum

Trees are critical to our existence and Fall is the perfect time of the year to study them. Great time to go out, look at the leaves and the trunks and identify the trees by name. Observe the difference between deciduous (falling) and conifer (evergreen) trees. Or simply enjoy the beauty of them.

We live in the Philadelphia area. Last Saturday we took our kids to the Morris Arboretum, a beautiful park managed by the University of Pennsylvania since 1932. The Arboretum belonged to siblings John and Lydia Morris, a wealthy Quaker family who own and iron firm. John Morris travelled around the world and enriched the Arboretum with trees from all over the world. I read there are more than 2,500 trees, which are actually labelled.

We had a wonderful time, studying the trees, collecting leaves, visiting the beautiful rose garden, the swan pond, and the magnificent sculptures. We walked on a huge floating structure overlooking “forest layers”. Rested in the “nest” with the big, blue, robin eggs.  Lay on the gigantic hammock overlooking the trees and listened to the birds. Enjoyed the indoors Japanese garden and learned that what makes it Japanese is the rocks, the pond, the fish, and, of course, the bridge! Learned how roots spread underground and how to compute their length given the tree’s age.

Back home, the kids put the leaves in big books to straighten them up and they are now ready to work on finding out the names of the trees and their special features.

There are good online resources that will help you make your trip a truly educational experience. You can, also, find tools to help you figure out what tree you are looking at.

I like The Terrific Trees Webquest, which will soon be hosted in the Choosito! Questbook as well. The Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation has made available a wealth of information through their factsheets database. The Arbor Day Foundation has an online animation tool to help your kids, step-by-step, identify the name of a tree by observing properties of the leaves.

There’s plenty to do in an arboretum or other park and the time is just right.