Parachute Training

by Susan Koshute

Parachute training with the serviceberry tree

The sign in the front yard provided only a puzzling, visual clue about what was taking place: “PARACHUTE TRAINING” written in bubbly letters on blue construction paper was clipped to the white draping around the serviceberry sapling. On the ground three flattened, laughing youngsters pretended to have just landed.


In reality we were preparing for the 2002 invasion of the periodical cicadas. Soon hordes of Brood VIII would tunnel upward and out of the ground to swarm and mate. Experts advised that young trees, vulnerable to damage by egg-laying females be covered. The sheer curtain wrapped securely with duct tape around the tree’s crown was not just a pretense. This “PARACHUTE” had landed.


Sometimes nature needs a little help.


My desire for acquiring a serviceberry tree began ten years earlier during a summer camping trip in Blackwater Falls, West Virginia. The nature museum exhibit shared the folklore of its name and piqued my interest to see the beautiful white blossoms that indicate the thawing of frozen dirt and the arrival of spring. About five months after planting the long-awaited tree, I discovered that the cultivar, “Autumn Brilliance” proved it was truly a multi-season specimen.



Serviceberry tree in autumn


Providentially planted by the corner of our front porch, its wide and airy branches create a make-believe forest along with front row seating for the ongoing outdoor show: an American robin comically attempting a flyby to grab the last of the ripened spring berries off a thin twig; blue jays asserting their size towards the sparrows to claim the juicy fruit; and the whistle of the cedar waxwing flock signaling it’s time to come and get their favorite food.


During the winter, I call the tree a “picnic table” for my feathered friends, who bring black sunflower seeds from neighborhood feeders to perch there.


Admittedly, I have never hugged this tree, although I am very fond of it. Not quite a family mascot, it is a landmark. Not a photo studio, it is a familiar backdrop for capturing special occasions on camera. Its shade has created the perfect conditions to continue the Middle Ages tradition of a Mary flower garden. Often pedestrians walking by slow down to indulge in the loveliness of the scene. Indeed, this serviceberry tree has “served” us all very well.


Susan Koshute has lived by the Ohio River, in Beaver PA since her college days. Whenever possible, Susan loves to be outdoors. Not quite an empty-nester, after homeschooling for 23 years, what a pleasure to have free time. Susan found Plant Love Stories after finding the quote "where flowers bloom so does hope" by Ladybird Johnson, "and discovering the feature about us in Wildflower Magazine.

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