Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Magic of the Sassafras

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of attending church camp each summer, and of those memories, the strongest ones are of our naturalist, Lindy Vickers. As I remember him, he was a thin little old man with a soft voice and a gentle manner. He taught me some of my earliest lessons on biology and nature, lessons that have stuck with me to this day. If I had known that "naturalist" was a real job, and not something you did as a volunteer camp counselor, I might have become a naturalist instead of a veterinarian.

The magic of the sassafras tree has fascinated me ever since those early days. Do you know what it is?

Can you guess now?
How about now?

Does this help?

OK, if you haven't figured it out by now, here it is laid out for you. The sassafras tree has a variety of leaf shapes. You can have right-handed mittens, left handed mittens, mittens with two thumbs, or "mittens" with no thumbs at all.

All four of these leaves came from the same sassafras tree in my back yard. Isn't Nature wonderful?


nina said...

Funny you mention sassafras with childhood memories. I recall it as one of the first trees I could identify (or cared to) because it seemed special even then. I think I could've become a naturalist, too. I have to credit my parents, tho--they met at Cornell in an ornithology class--partners!

Susan Gets Native said...

It was my first tree ID, too!
I love to snap the stem of the leaves and breathe in that sweet lemony smell.