"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
- Dr. Seuss
I've walked through the Dakota Homestead property thousands of times over the past 4 years and never cease to be amazed at the beauty, variety and health of the trees. If you haven't walked through there, please do. Take your kids or your dog and walk through as often as possible! There is a map at the end of this post with the location and species of each kind of tree.
At the Dakota Homestead property there are 19 mature trees that have been growing for over 70 years and were planted in the 1940s! We have both evergreen trees (keep their needles year round) and deciduous trees (lose their leaves in the fall). There are 8 different kinds of trees, 6 exceptional trees, 2 trees of a vulnerable species and 1 exceptional grove (11 trees forming a continuous canopy). This property is really exceptional!
The Pacific Madrone is one of the most beautiful trees here in the Northwest, with sienna colored bark that peels away from the trunk revealing light green, smooth bark underneath, and large, glossy, dark green leaves. They grow all along the Pacific coastline but their numbers are declining from habitat destruction. Native Americans ate the berries, but because the berries have a high tannin content and are thus astringent, they more often chewed them or made them into a cider. They also used the berries to make necklaces and other decorations, and as bait for fishing. Bark and leaves were used to treat stomachaches, cramps, skin ailments, and sore throats. The bark was often made into a tea to be drunk for these medicinal purposes. Many mammal and bird species feed off the berries, including American robins, cedar waxwings, band-tailed pigeons, varied thrushes, quail, mule deer, raccoons, ring-tailed cats, and bears. Thank goodness we won't be seeing any bears at the Homestead!
The two Lebanon Cedar trees are from a vulnerable conservation status - they originally made up a large portion of forests in the Mediterranean and are the national symbol on the flag of Lebanon. You will notice that the needles are very short and dense - the tree adapted to the hot, dry conditions of the mediterranean by conserving energy and water in short, tightly packed needles, and thick bark to get through seasons of drought.
Japanese maples are one of the first food sources for our native mason bees in the early spring. These solitary bees live for one short season, and are the sole pollinators of all fruit trees and berry bushes in the northwest. These little blue bees do not have stingers, don't make honey and are very gentle. Otherwise known as orchard bees, they make their homes in small holes, cracks or bee houses in neighbors yards, laying eggs and packing them in a row of cells surrounded by mud collected from the ground. Honeybees don't start coming out until late spring/early summer after the fruit trees and berry bushes are done blooming. Japanese maples, along with all other maple trees, have early blooms that supply these mason bees with pollen to give them energy to pollinate the surrounding fruit trees, and to leave with each baby bee to nourish them as they grow over the next winter.
Buds, flowers, seeds and even the bark of maple trees are food for moth caterpillars, aphids, leafhoppers and beetle larvae. Woodpeckers and other birds feed on these insects, which furnish protein and fat for adult reproduction and young nestlings. Songbirds eat the seeds and buds. These two Japanese maple trees at the Dakota Homestead may be smaller than the rest of the towering pines and cedars, but they play an equally important role in the local ecosystem!
Did you know that at higher elevations the bark of the Ponderosa pine smells like butterscotch and looks like puzzle pieces? It's true! I spent a summer working in the mountains of southern Colorado surrounded by Ponderosa pines and Aspen trees, and on sunny days the warmth of the sun made the whole forest smell like butterscotch, warm cedar and cool breeze. It was magical!
The extra long needles create a perfect mulch for groundcover like strawberries (which we will plant hundreds of at the Dakota Homestead). They have also been used to stuff outdoor pillows and mattresses with in days long gone.
Last, but certainly not least, is the granddaddy of them all - the gorgeous double blooming Ornamental Cherry tree at the corner of the property stretching out towards the elementary school. This tree is one of the most beautiful trees you'll ever see when it blooms in the spring. You can feel the buzz from bees when the tree is in full bloom, it practically vibrates the ground in front of it! This cherry tree spends all it's energy creating blooms that completely cover the canopy each spring and is so fantastic it has become the symbol of our fight to save this land and create a welcoming gathering place for the community!
Friends, please spend a few minutes walking through the Dakota Homestead property - picture what it will look like after we all come together, raise the funds and create this place for us all! Imagine sitting on a bench under the full blooming canopy of the cherry tree, teaching your kids and grandkids about the history of the Lebanon cedar, looking for blue bees early each spring on the early blooms of the Japanese maple and knowing you protected the gorgeous Madrona tree and it's 18 closest companion trees.
Here is a map of the trees on the property to aid your self-guided tour. Enjoy! Send us pictures of what you love!