Black Locust


“How do you know it’s a black locust?”

It was a sincere question
and
honestly
I had to think
for a few seconds 
before I answered.

The easy answer
the one I didn’t give
was it couldn’t be anything else.

With those compound leaves
it wasn’t any of the oaks
or maples
redbud was out of the question
as was beech
and tulip poplar.

With those leaflets
as small and numerous as they were
ash, hickory
box elder
buckeye and even pecan
were off the list.

But on that late April morning
it was more than just 
seeing what it wasn’t

It was seeing what it had to be.

With those dangling clusters 
of wondrous white flowers
laden with nectar, pollen,
and bumble bees

It had to be a black locust.
It couldn’t be anything else.

“It’s the flowers,”
I said with a smile.


Just a note:

I know and understand that most people don’t know how to identify the trees around them.  Or the flowers, shrubs, and grasses.  There are so many I don’t know . . . lots more than I do. 

In the early grades, we often use what’s known as “environmental print” to help students to read.  Environmental print is helpful because almost everyone, even children at a young age, can recognize it — it’s ubiquitous and you know it at a glance.  

When I learn with people — especially young people — outdoors, it’s my hope that they would develop a familiarity with the world around them.  Much like recognizing the M that is the golden arches, it would be great if, at a glance, we could recognize the plants and animals around us.  

To paraphrase Aldo Leopold, we can’t love what we don’t know.

7 thoughts on “Black Locust”

  1. I love this. I wish I could recognize more natural objects, but I am doing my best to learn! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Like

  2. The detail of your poem really strengthens the message. It paints a vivid image to hear the types of trees and to read stanzas so beautifully descriptive like:

    With those dangling clusters
    of wondrous white flowers
    laden with nectar, pollen,
    and bumble bees

    Lovely.

    Like

  3. Love your poem! The older I get, the more I want to know about the natural world, and the more I wish I had been taught at a young age. I have an idea for a program like Duolingo, but with plant identification and some other topics. Now if I can just figure out a way to make it happen!

    Liked by 1 person

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