Connecting with Nature During Challenging Times

During the month of April, GBLC held a Tree Seed Photo Challenge which provided families and individuals with fun nature-focused activities to do at home. This event, which was planned months in advance, ended up being the perfect activity for these challenging times. Each week we posted a photo of a tree seed and asked viewers to identify it. All participants were entered into a raffle prize drawing and the winners were randomly chosen on Arbor Day.

Our spring 2020 Seed Photo Challenge was a success! Here is what we heard back from participants:

“The kids are very happy to win a prize and have a tree to plant too!” 
“Thanks for doing the competition, it's such a great idea.”
“This tree seed challenge has been such a wonderful bright spot amid the global craze! I’ve really enjoyed learning about local trees. Thank you so much for what you do.”
“I’m thrilled to have won the tree guide and will use it with my school environmental club to enhance our outdoor knowledge.”

Over the past few weeks we have shared some wonderful native species of trees to celebrate Arbor Day. You can find pictures and descriptions of them below. We also shared some wonderful at-home nature activities from local and global organizations and organizers, as well as some recommended nature book titles. Please share them with your friends and family! 

The GBLC team is working hard to make our special places and trails available for you to use. We ask that you please observe our COVID-19 Trail Rules in order to safely enjoy the trails at the Lake Mansfield Conservation Forest and Pfeiffer Arboretum on Long Pond Road.


Tree Seed Photos and Descriptions

seed sprouts


Week One's tree was...
Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

northern red oak tree

The Northern Red Oak is one of New England's most widespread forest trees. In the spring, it produces flowers that develop into fruits (or acorns) that are popular with many mammals, but are poisonous to humans unless they are processed correctly. Its dark bark is striped with long, smooth plates separated by deep furrows. In the fall, the leaves change colors to crimson, golden-orange, or russet. Learn more about the Northern Red Oak at Native Plant Trust's Go Botany project and at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


Week Two's tree was...
Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)

pitch pine tree

In New England, Pitch Pine most commonly occurs in sandy soils and coastal plains. In the Berkshires, Pitch Pine is a rarity that occurs in higher elevations like the top of East Mountain and Mount Everett. This hardy species is extremely resilient and sends up new shoots in response to stress, such as fire and herbivory by deer. It produces pine cones, a tight cluster of woody scales that are grouped together to protect the developing seeds inside. Its needle-like leaves are green year-round, staying on the tree for several years before falling off. Learn more about the Pitch Pine at Native Plant Trust's Go Botany project and at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


Week Three's tree was...
Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)


Tuliptree is easy to remember for its showy flowers resembling tulips or lilies, and for its star-shaped leaves with rounded bases and square-lobed tops. It is the largest member of the magnolia family in New England and one of the tallest hardwoods in eastern North America, with a straight trunk reaching up to 200 feet (65m) in height. It produces yellow-green flowers in spring which are easily missed because they are often up to 50 feet or higher in the tree canopy. The leaves are waxy and smooth, and dependably turn bright gold in fall. Learn more about the Tuliptree at Native Plant Trust's Go Botany project and at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


Week Four's tree was...

American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)

American chestnut

These spiny seeds we occasionally discover in our local forests are a message of hope from the past. The mighty American Chestnut is no longer a prominent tree of north eastern forests because of a fungal disease that devastated the species in the first half of the 20th century. However, saplings continue to sprout from the root-stock of these ancient giants, showing that adaptation and resiliency occurs slowly but surely. Look for tall multi-stemmed shrubs with double-tapering, coarsely-toothed, smooth leaves, often persisting in the warmer pockets of dry woods. Chestnuts were the most important edible nut of eastern indigenous peoples and were used in many recipes and medicinal preparations. Learn more about the American Chestnut at Native Plant Trust's Go Botany project and at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


At-Home Activities for the Whole Family

Virtual Field Trips from We Are Teachers

Mission: Seed Spot from PBS Kids

Park It! National Park Activities

Art and Play Activities from Art Bar

Veggiezilla online game from PBS Kids

Finding Nature: Staying connected to the natural world during COVID-19

Free coloring pages for kids and adults from Taproot Magazine

The Nature Conservancy's Nature Lab (Grades K-12)

Gardening Activities from Mom Junction

50 Bird Species and the Sounds They Make

Great Barrington Libraries' free activities for kids

Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness free online classes

Nature bingo from Mass Audubon

Greenager's Virtual Programs

Forest Forage Scavenger Hunt from BEAT

Virtual tour program about local edible plants

Backyard Tree Identification Guide by HomeAdvisor


nature book

Nature Book Titles

Participants sent us some of their favorite nature book titles. Below is a list of recommended nature books including some of their suggestions:

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben

The Overstory by Richard Powers

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George 

The Pine Barrens by John McPhee

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The Healing Code of Nature: Discovering the New Science of Eco-Psychosomatics by Clemens G Arvay

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Berkshire Stories: History - Nature - People - Conservation by Morgan Bulkeley Jr.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter


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tuliptree flower