by Ian Briscoe

It was a hot and humid evening in Tequesta, Florida. The air was so dense and sticky, it was almost as if you were drowning. You could hear a pin drop on the water, which was also warm on the bottoms of my feet as I carefully, but quickly, worked my way through the guardian trees. They were surely close behind and I had to keep moving. The trees will protect me, as they always have. I am reminded to be careful within these trees in the dark, immediately slicing my hand on a barnacle as I reached out to pull myself forward. The sand crabs scatter with each step I take, and I can hear fish feeding close by. The rays of light behind me dance through the trees, creating long and eerie shadows that stretch into my vision as I glance back. The hoots and hollers of my stalkers become louder as they seemingly close the distance between us.

Do I continue through the trees that I have maneuvered so many times before? Do I take the plunge and swim away to an unknown location on the intercoastal? Surely, that would make far too much noise. I can’t climb these trees without being seen; however, I could go under them. How much longer will they chase me? A clearing between the trees opens up and I dash through quickly to the left to hide beneath the largest tree in the grove. Silence, for the moment, but as my hunters near, that quickly dissipates. The pounding of their boots on the sand, the jingle of keys in their pockets, and a few belches from all that beer they had been drinking.

They had reached the clearing, and were now within fifteen feet of my wooded hiding spot. “Where the hell did he go?” “I swear I just saw him!” The trees will protect me, as they always have. I stay beneath the tree, completely silent, completely still, listening to their voices fade away and watching the rays from their flashlights flicker across the water and sand. I’ve been here before; I feel the etchings of my initials paired with someone else's, within a carved heart on the inside of this magnificent tree. This is a place of love, not fear, and those who fear the trees become lost within them. Silence again, until I start listening, the sound of the wind whistling through the trees, the occasional splash as fish break surface, various critters nimbly navigating through the trees just as I was a moment ago. Then, the sound of slithering paired with what sounded like a tire losing air within my immediate area. This tree is not my home, and it is time for me to move on.

As I work my way back through the trees, memories of easier times flood my mind. Climbing and playing among these trees, jumping from the trees into the water, fishing and netting within the trees, catching sand crabs, trying to snag a mullet out of the water with your bare hands to see if you can create your own fable. I emerge from the grove to be greeted by a calm, cool, and consistent breeze that carries the salt from the ocean to where I am standing. The trees kept me safe, and they always have. Thank you Mangroves.

Ian Briscoe is a 24 year old transfer student from South Florida currently living in Boulder, Colorado studying Environmental Studies. Follow Ian on Instagram at @Breeeezzzyy.

Photo: Mangroves in the Florida Everglades, from Wikimedia Commons.

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by Richard Ekeng Ita

Seed art by Julia Ferguson (

Lying deserted inside the quiet ground

Relying solely on the climate found

Plying its trade without cause to worry

Doing this slow and steady without thoughts to hurry.

With no hope for water, the rain comes

With no hope for light, the sun shines

With no hope for food, the soil provides

and in the midst of weeds, it still survives

In moments of dessication, it becomes encysted

Just to make its growth consistent.

Some emerge after the struggle with seeds, some remain seedless

Some emerge after the struggle with cysts, to go about its business.

From the radicle, comes the roots, which grows downwardly, for the purpose of anchorage to the ground

From the plumule, comes the shoots, which grows upwardly, for the purpose of bringing forth crowns.

A seed it was then, a big plant it is now.

Go to the plants today all who are hopeless, learn their lessons and be wise!

Richard Ekeng Ita, PhD, is a plant ecologist from Nigeria. He lectures at Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. Nigeria. Richard's research interests are Quantitative Ecology, Wetland Ecology, Forest Ecology, Biodiversity and conservation, Pollution ecology, and Climate change.

Image header by Julia Ferguson, read more about her artwork (and seeds!) in Seed Love and Science Art.

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Updated: Nov 11, 2020

by Jena Copley

Family Trees: My cousin, Eden (age 4, far left), standing next to her purple-leaf plum. Jena (me, age 5) underneath my flowering ornamental pear tree (back right). Madison (age 6, far right), my sister, hugging her yellow-wood tree. Photo from May 2004.

My grandparents have always been two of my favorite people in this world. My clearest childhood memories are from their house with all my cousins. We would spend hours making up games and running around the yard. But now, because we are all growing up and my grandparents are older, they finally decided to sell their house. We will keep the memories made in my grandparent’s house, but there are some things that we couldn’t bring with us. Particularly, seven trees. 

My grandparents started a tradition that they would celebrate the birth of a new grandchild by planting a tree that would flower or the leaves would change color during that child’s birth month. When my grandparents moved, they left behind at the old house a crab apple (blooms in early April), a yellow wood (bright flowers into June), a pear tree (white flowers in May), a purple-leaf plum (striking leaves in July), a star magnolia (eye-catching flowers in May), a crimson maple (bright red leaves in November), and a sugar maple (wonderful yellow and orange leaves in October). Recently, in part because of a college Botany course, I started thinking about those trees, but I could not even remember what type of tree my grandparents had planted for me. 

I asked my grandparents about our trees and they remembered every single one.

My grandma has been going through a lot of pictures and most years she would take a picture of us standing by our tree on our birthday. When I first saw the pictures, I was in shock.

I remembered my tree as this little thing with thin branches growing just above my head, but the pictures showed otherwise. Seeing the tree towering over me, both of us growing together was nostalgic. I now realize that when you're younger you don’t notice or remember the little things as much as you do when you get older. 

Our Trees: 

April 1997, crabapple

Alex was born right when the crabapples blossom. When the first Copley grandchild came into the world, the world definitely was not ready for him. This troublemaker always ‘jumped’ before thinking. Alex was constantly covered in scrapes and bruises from whatever mischief he had gotten into and he caused a ruckus wherever he went. He loves to test limits and be a part of a good story. We all look up to him as the cool older cousin, and fittingly, his tree usually blooms the earliest of all of our trees. 

June 1997, yellow wood

A few months after the birth of the first grandchild, my sister Madison was born. Madison is  cautious and caring. She is the “mom” of the group, and balances out Alex’s impulsive nature. Always wanting to set the best example, Madison takes pride in her schoolwork. Not only does she want to be the best, she wants everyone’s attention while she does it. Like her, her large yellow-wood tree with its long flowering time from late May to early July is always the center of attention. 

The author, age 12, with her ornamental pear tree in 2011.

May 1999, ornamental pear

Personally, I feel the most important grandchild was born next: me. As the third grandchild behind two very big personalities, I have always been the quiet one. As a kid I would watch and follow whatever the older kids did. Today I am still the quiet one, but I do like to cause trouble. I play tricks and make jokes, but never for the attention. My aversion to attention is quite the opposite of the large ornamental pear tree that represents my birth. 

July 1999, purple-leaf plum

Shortly after my birth, the third girl in the Copley family, Eden, was born. She and I have always been great friends. She loves to make everyone happy and is very go-with-the-flow. With an older brother like Alex, she has been the more timid one of the two, but you can always count on Eden. With such a serene color, the purple-leaf plum is the perfect tree to represent her. 

The author's younger brother, Craig (age 8) with his star magnolia in 2010.

May 2002, star magnolia

Once again, havoc was brought upon the family, with the birth of my little brother, Craig. No one was prepared for the big personality that came in such a small body. Craig was called the “drama king” growing up, and he always kept everyone on their toes. He has a huge heart and cares a lot, but as the youngest of three, he sure loves to be the star of the show. A star magnolia was planted for his birth, and it does him perfect justice. 

November 2005, crimson maple

Jack was born. The youngest boy of the cousins and probably the most talented. We all have our talents, but Jack seems to have them all. He has always been smart and athletic and has even learned multiple instruments. When he is older there is no doubt he will be a huge success. The crimson maple planted for his birth will grow just as big as he will be. 

October 2007, sugar maple

The final Copley cousin was born, Kate. She is definitely the youngest child, you can’t help but baby her. She is too smart for her age and will show you exactly how smart she is with her witty comebacks. Kate has a big personality and loves to make friends with anyone she meets. The sugar maple planted for Kate shows off her sweet, big personality and the tree’s leaves change a beautiful golden color during her birth month.

The author's ornamental pear tree, in May 2020, flowering in full.

Today: As time goes on many things have changed. Our generation has endured many changes to the environment, and so have our trees. Climate change has impacted our trees in ways we may not have noticed. Alex’s crabapple tree’s leaves could have been turning redder due to lower temperatures. The black vine weevils could be coming out earlier with the early bloom of Madison’s yellow-wood tree. Earlier blooms of Eden’s purple-leaf plum could have promoted larger fruits. Late budding could have led to damage to the leaves of Kate’s sugar maple. 

As a developing scientist, I am starting to understand the importance of noticing the small things. In today’s world, the changing phenology of plants can tell us a lot about the impacts of climate change. By researching the habit and phenology of our seven trees I have begun to wonder how they may have changed since being planted. All seven of us cousins have such different traits, and we have all grown and changed so much through the years. I believe our trees and their changing phenology are the perfect metaphor. Whether a scientist or a granddaughter, I will start to pay more attention to the little things, because they are worth it.

Jena is an undergraduate student at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio where she is studying Biology. She has a big family and a great passion for the outdoors. She spends most of her time learning, thrill seeking, and having fun with friends and family.

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