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Fancy Plans… Guide to North American Trees

May 28, 2010
[In the interest of buying myself some time, I’m dragging an old post out of the archives and into the harsh glare of nearly a year’s worth of hindsight. This one dates back to 06/25/09 and features the short, punchy stylings of a blogger in his prime. You’ll notice I run a lot longer now…]

In the interest of bettering our fellow bloggers, we provide this handy guide to the trees of North America. While this can generally be a tedious and forgettable subject, we hope that, when all is read and done, you’ll walk away with at least one more fact to add to your collection of useless knowledge. Prepare to be taught at!

The over-dramatic Weeping Willow prepares to hurl itself into the river, quoting "Hamlet" all the while...

The over-dramatic Weeping Willow prepares to hurl itself into the river, quoting "Hamlet" all the while...

Weeping Willow
Easily the most “emo” of all North American trees, the weeping willow spends its lifetime sullenly hunched over, bitterly complaining about anything and everything.* It can often be found sulking morosely in the darker corners of your yard.

  • *Wind – Fine. I’m waving. Crawl out of my ass. Jesus.
  • Calm – A breeze would be nice.
  • Rain – This is how I feel inside. All the time.
  • Not Raining – Nobody understands me. Not even the weather.
  • Snow – Why can’t we live somewhere warmer?
  • Heat – This fucking figures.

Natural Enemies: Sunny, temperate days; the laughter of children

Given local wind patterns, your neighbors may be surprised by a few maples of their own, long after you've skipped town...

Depending on wind patterns, your neighbors may be surprised by a few maples of their own, long after you've skipped town...

Maple
Widely acknowledged as Canada’s only export, the maple is known for its appearance on national flags and its ruthlessly efficient seed distribution system, which is regarded by many top scientists as a “miracle.”

DaVinci’s early model for a flying machine (known today as the “autogyro”) was based on the corkscrewing flight pattern of the maple seed. The U.S. military took this to its logical conclusion in Vietnam, using their autogyros to scatter “leaflets” over the irritated population, who grumbled and told their kids to get outside and rake the yard. (“Watch out for the punji pits and anti-personnel mines. I don’t want to have to clean up two messes today.”)

Natural enemies: Rakes; currency exchange rates

Yeah. I've been working out. I also own a Big & Tall franchise...

Yeah. I've been working out. I also own a Big & Tall franchise...

Oak
A hulking metaphor of a tree, the oak tree is prized for its bold statement that even the smallest of us can grow up to do great things, like win the heavyweight championship of the world, or take out a neighbor’s water lines.

While it tends to do better in wide open areas, it can usually be found in groupings of smaller trees, rubbing its towering new look in the faces of its former classmates, who teased it mercilessly during its formative years.

Natural enemies: Squirrels; small claims court

The rarely seen, but easily activated, aspen G-spot...

The rarely seen, but easily activated, aspen G-spot...

Aspen
The most sensitive of all North American trees, the aspen is known for it “quaking” and “shivering” at the slightest breeze, while gusts in the 30-40 mph range will cause it to break down in full-blown tears. Recent scientific studies have theorized that the tree may actually be the most easily aroused of all plants, its quaking due to an incredibly easily achieved orgasm.

Either way, aspen owners should keep their distance, as it becomes emotionally attached at the slightest provocation, leading to late night surprise visits and drunk-dialing.

Natural enemies: Woodpeckers; frat boys

A promotional still from "Biker Boyz," featuring the semi-rare R-type redwood in the background...

A promotional still from "Biker Boyz," featuring the semi-rare R-type redwood in the background...

California Redwood
Although native to California, the redwood has begun to creep up the coastline into Oregon and Washington, prompting locals to bitch endlessly about these intruders. These diatribes, usually delivered from atop a bicycle or light-rail car, are usually disregarded by tourists and redwoods alike.

The looming threat of California’s bankruptcy should only increase the redwood exodus, providing the Pacific Northwest with novelty tree “tunnels” and yet another goddamn reason for tourists to visit. There is some speculation (as yet unproven) that the trees are only looking for cheaper real estate/heroin.

Natural enemies: Oregonians; tainted needles

Most Pleasant View Obstruction - Bed & Breakfast Monthly, July 2002

Most Pleasant View Obstruction - Bed & Breakfast Monthly, July 2002

Cedar
The Swiss Army knife of trees, the cedar has been used to create everything from moderately priced furniture to bedding for pet rodents. Due to its versatility and distinctive smell, the noble cedar has excelled in many areas during the last several years (listed below).

  • Intramural volleyball team captain
  • District co-champion, debate team
  • Co-signer on Aaron Nussbaum’s auto loan
  • President of the Sierra Club (1984, 1996)
  • Personal assistant to Blythe Danner, Phillip Michael Thomas
  • Toothpick of the year (1997)
  • U.S. Goodwill Ambassador to Luxembourg
  • Recipient – Don Mills Clean Living Award (2009)
  • Best Smile – Paloma County High School (Junior Year)

Natural Enemies: Cheerleader cliques; asthmatics

Close-up view of the many small parts of the common pine, which is very easily disassembled...

Close-up view of the many small parts of the common pine, which is very easily disassembled...

Pine
Perhaps best known for its involvement in the George Brett pine tar scandal (as well as its role as an “enabler” in several lesser incidents), the pine has cleaned up its reputation to become a well-known Christmas icon, on par with Santa Claus and his son, Jesus Christ.

Also well-known to homeowners and other Christmas celebrants as “nature’s litterbug,” the pine cannot help but shed needles and cones every-fucking-where constantly. Years of domestication have failed to housebreak the tree, as its shedding reaches a peak when kept indoors. “Evergreen,” my ass.

Natural enemies: Umpires; Jehovah’s Witnesses

"... at which point your grandmother, on your mother's side, fornicated with an angel..."

"... at which point your grandmother, on your mother's side, fornicated with an angel..."

Family
Ranging in size from a full-blown leviathan (Utah) to barely more than a misshapen stump with a few rare branches (Arkansas, West Virginia), this decidedly North American institution is prized for its collection of interminable slideshows and long, boring stories.

While it continues to grow all year round, it reaches its peak during the summer reunion months.

Natural enemies: Attractive cousins; Planned Parenthood

-CLT

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24 comments

  1. Natural enemies of the willow: the laughter of children.
    great.


    • They’re also no fan of early morning cheerfulness.

      Thanks for stopping in, DoctorU.


  2. I love coming here to be taught at. I still worship at the CLT Church.

    I also love trees. With a passion. I miss them immensely. Weeping willows are one of my favorites but I’m not a big fan of pine.

    Why do I have this sudden wish to be an Aspen?

    The family trees – wow. So funny. I’m thinking my family tree is more like a bush.


    • Good old Arizona, the treeless wonder. Much like Dorothy’s Kansas, minus the tornadoes and corn.

      I refuse to speculate on your family shrub, no matter how entertaining that might be, what with your Aspen leanings.

      Nice to see you again, CC.


  3. Even your tags are cracking me up. Oh those weeping willows. When a violent breeze whips through them do they transform from emo to screamo?

    And while I’m here, why didn’t the screamo genre catch on?


    • They do, Alan, although it is wise to be out of earshot of them, what with their incessant bitching and tuneless yelling.

      The reason it didn’t catch on? I think it’s because the new genre showed up during the late-90’s “genre storm,” during which regular ol’ rocknroll was being killed by any number of new genres, including, but not limited to:
      grunge, postgrunge, emo, spoken word, riot grrlies, rockabilly revivalists, loungecore, top 40 shit, black metal, speed metal, rap metal, sheet metal (think Metallica performing with an 80-piece orchestra), acid house, drum n bass, gabber, speedcore, grungabilly, riot emo, shit metal, industrial revival, etc.

      The list goes on and on (for several more pages).

      Thanks for the great questions, Alan. I’m glad someone’s reading the tags.


  4. Never again will I fear a game of Trivial Pursuit, Horticulture Addition. Thank you Lion Tamer!


    • Where every wedge is green and every third answer is either “Ed Begley Jr.” or “Gurney’s Seed Catalog.”

      Great to see you, RR.


  5. I think i learned something! WONDERFUL!

    I must make it to North America one day and see these wonderful specimens of trees! They sound delightful! LOSTL!

    Have a great weekend!

    Bob


    • Bob,

      What a pleasant surprise to have you here! You definitely must visit, as the locals are every bit as pleasant as the plants, and nearly half as exciting.

      Don’t forget to bring your mum. She’d love a trip.

      Thanks for popping in, Bob. Enjoy your weekend.


  6. I think you should have posted a Q&A to test our knowledge of the above trees. I revised as I went along, and was disappointed not to have had the opportunity to show off.


    • The editors nixed that saying things like, “The funny was over after the first paragraph,” and “The captions are cute; but they’re no ‘I used to use my eyes. But they were shit.'”

      Feel free to post your revisions, though. I’d love to show the editors a thing or two about this business called “blog.”

      Nice to see you, WIB.


  7. . . .the pine has cleaned up its reputation to become a well-known Christmas icon, on par with Santa Claus and his son, Jesus Christ.

    That made my day.


    • It’s a good line. I’m not saying that to pat myself on the back, but to indicate that it’s been awhile since I’ve read this.

      However, since I barely remember it, feel free to spread it around and attribute it to whomever you feel like.

      Thanks for the visit, Ulysses. Always a pleasure having you here.


  8. Haha, I see this was cobbled together back in the salad days of high velocity blogging. A wonderful trip down the nature trail of memories. I agree that natural history should be more fun.

    Nice job CLT aa always. I can hardly wait for your post on the Fungi of the Northern Plains.


    • Those were the days, weren’t they? Man. 30 posts a month. Who was that guy? I can scarcely be talked into doing 3 a week. It would make you think I’ve got some sort of side projects going or something.

      Fungi, eh? You know, you just keep laying down the gauntlet, FJ. Expect that post within the next 4 weeks – 6 months.


  9. Goddamnit. I’ve been on Twitter waaaay too much. My fingers kept itching for a “re-tweet” button.

    I see now I have no choice but to print this out, make a scadillion copies, and proceed to stuff them in the backpacks of those college students still stupid enough not to have moved back home to the bosoms of their families. No choice, I tell you.


    • You’re absolutely right, Lisa. You have no choice. I know those stupid college students didn’t head to college to get an education, but let’s see their drunken asses avoid it now!

      Which of course takes us back to the heady pre-Twitter days of spreading the word via the “for staff use only” copier, thus avoiding the 10-cents per page libary fees.

      Thanks for the great comment, Lisa. Great to see you again.


  10. […] CLT: The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – volume 1 and The Fancy Plans Guide to North American Trees […]


  11. Keep the archives coming, CLT. Loved this post!! Like Claire, I suffer from dendrophilia (I also belong to her ‘church’). Who can not stand in awe of the majestic oaks of Texas or the botanical sirens that grace the Serengeti Plain (like the sausage, acacia or umbrella trees)? I recently watched an eye-opening show on the Science channel a while back (“Revenge of the Plants”). It changed the way I view botany forever. No longer can I whack an unruly branch. You always take me ‘somewhere’ CLT…in this post, somewhere lovely, scenic and verdant. I could feel maple seeds fluttering in my hair. Always grateful.


    • Who doesn’t love trees, excluding Communists and allergy sufferers? I love them mainly for their shade and their usefulness in building products with even more usefulness.

      I no longer whack the occasional unruly branch either, e3h. And as much as I’d like to turn that into a euphemism, I won’t, because it’s mostly my sons (ages three and five) who whack unruly branches with either each other or other unruly branches.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, e3h. I certainly enjoyed writing it.


  12. A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E!! I’ll take both of them!!


  13. I was just thinking about this EXACT post last week!! I saw something or read something that tied in to your post…can’t remember, but it will come to me and I’ll be back.


    • I’ll be waiting, safely ensconced in the driver’s seat of the wayback machine.



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