State Tree • Living sculpture • Puddingstone • Root beer tree (A3.6)
You probably already know that red maple is the state tree of Rhode Island. But did you know that it was voted as such by school children in the 1890’s, but was not officially adopted until 6 March, 1964?
Red maples are conspicuous in the fall because of their bright red leaves. Here's your chance to examine its bark closely so you can spot individuals in the park at anytime. The grayish bark is not very thick and breaks into narrow vertical plates of different lengths. There are also red maples along the driveway into the park, but they were planted--naturally occurring red maples are more often found in swampy or bottomland habitats.
Now that climbers and Japanese knotweed have been removed from the area, you can't possibly miss the tree-of-heaven that is an astounding example of flexibility and resilience in plants. It is hard to imagine the sequence of events that formed this living sculpture.
In the book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, this hardy introduced species was used as a metaphor for how difficult circumstances can be overcome by persistence and tenacity.
The puddingstone southwest of the tree-of-heaven is similar to the massive rock formation known as Purgatory Conglomerate at Norman Bird Sanctuary. This sedimentary rock was formed in an ancient, fast-flowing riverine environment where deposits of different-sized stones and sand grains were eventually cemented together under great pressure.
A small grove of sassafras was revealed in the process of clearing climbers from the tree-of-heaven. The coverage was so dense that even the distinctive mitten-shaped leaves had been hidden from view. A pioneer species native to North America, sassafras was surprisingly significant in the economic, culinary, and medical history of Europe as well. In terms of culinary applications, think root beer, the filé powder in gumbo, and Louisiana Creole cooking.