Beckenholdt park trees worth a visit

One of the newest additions to Beckenholdt Park is the Indiana Native Tree self-guided walk. For our guide we use “101 Trees of Indiana, A Field Guide” by Marion T. Jackson (published by the Indiana University Press). If you want a good guide to the trees of Indiana, get this one.

While the trees in this book are mostly native, they do include a few that have been introduced and are commonly seen. One that comes to mind is the osage-orange (also known as the hedge-apple) which is a native of the Arkansas and Missouri area and was brought here for use as a “living hedge” for livestock and was used by the pioneers for wagon wheel hubs and by Native Americans as bow wood.

There are a few out of the book that won’t get planted along the trail for various reasons. One reason is that they will be very difficult to find. An example would be Northern white cedar; this tree occurs only in one site in Indiana, the dunes region and it grows in bog regions. To top it off, it is a state endangered tree. Another problem that we have is there are some trees that won’t grow in this area; they are found only in a very limited area of Indiana.

Some other examples include the cucumber-tree; this is basically a southern tree and is found in only one county (Washington) and perhaps in a few other southern counties. The Umbrella Tree is another example. It is found growing only in a couple of counties near the Ohio River. This tree is a native of Appalachia; the trees found here are in their northern range limit.

The largest family of trees in Indiana is the oak; the ones we have are white, swamp chestnut, rock chestnut and chinkapin. Others include shingle, black-jack, cherrybark, Southern red, black, Northern red, pin, shumard and scarlet.

Out of those listed we have nine that grow naturally in our area, so we’ll have to introduce the other species to our area. Those that aren’t natural to our area generally grow either in the far southern or the far northern part of the state.

Some examples would be the overcup and cherrybark, which are found only in a few of the southwestern counties. The Northern pin oak is found naturally only in the upper quarter of the state.

The other large family of trees we have along the trail is the hickory. There are seven members of that family that are native. These are the butternut, shellbark, mockernut, shagbark, red, pignut and pale.

It needs to be noted that the pale hickory is rarely seen; it’s also an endangered species in Indiana. Its native range is in fine sandy soil in three southwestern counties.

Out of the 101 native trees listed, there are only 21 that don’t grow naturally in our area. Out of these, how many will we be able to plant and maintain at the park? We won’t know until we plant them, but a good guess would be close to 15. A lot depends on how available some trees are; nurseries don’t always carry some of the trees, even the DNR nurseries don’t. In that case, our best bet is to find someone that has one growing and wants it out of the way.

Transplanting doesn’t always work, but we can try. Some trees in order to survive need special conditions, such as the pale hickory. Other trees have special areas that they thrive in, such as the pecan. They tend to thrive in their natural environment; fertile, moist soils along larger rivers and streams in the southwestern part of the state. Will it grow up here? Yes, it will grow; but will it thrive? Again, the answer is maybe.

So while we may not be able to plant all 101 trees that we would like, we’ll still have enough trees that will enable you and the kids to have a pleasant walk and perhaps learn a few things.