Willow oak (Quercus phellos) leaves emerging.
Remember how the elms flowered and fruited first, and then leafed? Oaks let it all hang out at the same time. And unlike elms, oaks are helped by pollinating insects.
I’ve loved three willow oaks so far:
The first, my mom planted near our front door.
The tree became the reason Mom and I know not to plant oaks near a front door.
The second, Vanderbilt planted so long ago it shows up on the earliest photos of campus. On 21st Ave., to the right of the book-return box at the Central Library, the willow oak still showers squiggly catkins onto students each spring. I used to find flowers in my hair at night.
The tree became the reason some of these students know trees have flowers.
The third is also at Vandy, but I worry about it. It’s allowed only a tiny island of earth in a sea of asphalt and concrete, on the edge of what used to be Kentucky Fried Chicken and is now the overflow lot for my medical gym. I park in the one slot next to the trunk, thinking that even though my car must compress the roots, at least I feel guilty about it. And I never walk on the mulched island even though it is the direct route from car door to sidewalk.
The tree became a reason I know to carry a camera to the gym.
(My elm flower post mentioned above: Elm Buds, Sign of Spring)