A week ago, trees outside of Hunter Hall began to bloom. The “popcorn trees” are loaded with beautiful, white blossoms… and I have yet to identify what kind of trees they are. Feel free to enlighten me. You see, the flowers look like they should be from a Bradford Pear, but those trees are usually of a uniform shape, somewhat round, the type that are laid out to line a driveway. Also, pear trees smell foul, when they’re blooming (or maybe after the leaves and pollen arrive).
These trees branch out in every direction, are extremely tall (have you ever seen a pear tree as tall as these?), and don’t seem to have any smell. I’ve looked up all sorts of pictures and descriptions of trees that have early spring blooming white flowers. Perhaps they’re white cherry blossoms, but I thought those were supposed to smell really nice. But last week, we asked one of the grad students who’s doing something with landscaping, and he’s going to see if he can find out, before we do.
Anyway, once the trees began to bloom, I was really wishing I had my camera, and then I actually began to stalk the weather report. What if it rained before the weekend or even rained on Saturday? I would miss out on the best of the popcorn trees’ blooming, and rain would knock the flowers off, or rot them, like on the pink tulip trees.
By Thursday, while staring out the cafe windows at what appeared to be white clouds at ground level, I knew that I needed to get up earlier than usual, on a workday, and bring my camera to campus. That was the only solution, because if I missed this chance, I would be kicking myself for the next year. Also, even if it didn’t rain (and, of course, it was supposed to rain for Easter), the trees would be leafing soon. Whether the flowers stayed on for any amount of time, afterwards, didn’t matter. The cloud effect would be gone.
I dragged myself out of bed, earlier than usual, reminding myself that if I caved in and went back to sleep, I would be mad at myself. One thing made it seem better. Since I didn’t have to work until late morning, I could wear normal clothes (jeans) onto campus, and look like a real person, and then change into my work clothes right before I started work. Talk about a good deal!
Of course, my eyes were peeled for any budding trees or anything that was particularly interesting. So, the first tree to catch my eye was probably a maple, with the “spinners” (or “helicopters”) just starting to form.
Once I arrived in front of Hunter, I was glad that most of the students seemed to be in class, though before long, I didn’t really care what they were up to. Since I’ve never taken a class on photography, the question for me is to figure out how to frame the shot, so you can actually see in the photo what you see with your eye. Just looking at the branches loaded with white blossoms, it can all just run together, in a picture. And depending on where the sun is or whether the sky’s blue or grey, how do you show off white flowers?
I am not extremely tall, my zoom lens never reaches as far as I want it to, and I didn’t bring a stool along with me, so I obviously went looking for the lowest branches. : ) The morning sun had just come up over Riggs, Fernow, and the rest of the buildings between the library and I, so the lighting was perfect.
Then, I hurried across the street, and perched on the wall in front of the cafe, hoping my coworkers wouldn’t spot me and come out to talk to me. I was in camera mode, and didn’t want to answer any questions. Or any silly ones, at least. But the sun was almost too bright, from where I was seated, and the oak trees were blocking my view of the blooming trees. A little further downhill got me the shots I wanted, though not many. I think the trees look “fluffier” in real life, than in the photos.
Back on the Hunter side of the street, I found these two odd, skinny, parallel branches sticking right out of the trunk, far below the rest of the branches. I would come back to look at them again, in the afternoon. But until then, I would take some more close-ups, where I would endanger my eyesight from trying to focus so hard. My camera would have trouble, sometimes, focusing on such small objects. I would find my eyes trying so hard to focus, as well, that my contacts would not be where they were supposed to be, when I pulled back from the lens. Oy.
With all the white blooms, any developing greenery was really obvious in the trees. So, I finally realized that the odd patches of green were from mistletoe, which seemed to be attached to most of the trees in the area. Once the leaves arrive, you’ll never know it’s there.
Taking a break from the popcorn trees, I took a look at new growth on some bushes, and then concentrated for a little while on the budding dogwood trees. The flowering dogwood tree, like the poinsettia plant, is known for its “petals” that surround the actual flower, but these aren’t really petals. The red leaves of the poinsettia and the white leaves of the dogwood are bracts, not petals. The flowers of this tree are actually in a small cluster, at the center of the white leaves.
Of course, in these photos, the bracts are only just opening to show off what will eventually be the flowers. Soon, these “petals” will grow large, longer, and turn white (or sometimes, pink). But most people think of the white leaves as being flower petals. So, consider this some trivia for you.
In the middle of my dogwood flower shoot, I looked up to find the well-defined shadow of a popcorn tree on the wall of Hunter Hall. I wonder how many students have ever noticed it there, at this time of morning? At no other time of day would the sun be pointed in the right direction to make the beautiful shadow so lovely, on the wall. Who knew that Hunter could look beautiful?
I bypassed the back side of the Hunter Auditorium building, looking for some other interesting trees, but just found lots of hollies. So, I took a look at the main building and the trees from the front, across the green, recently-mowed lawn. That’s one pretty drunk-looking tree over there on the left, wouldn’t you say?
For anyone who knows their trees really well, I took a photo of the trunk of one of the trees, because I wanted to find a description of the bark, hoping to help identify the tree. Not as pretty as the blossoms, but I still like the photo.
With the students still in class, I didn’t have to worry about anyone judging me as I walked along the wall, in front of Sirrine, trying to get a better look at the dogwood trees up there, but didn’t get many good ones. Still, doesn’t everyone like walking along walls, when they’re maybe not supposed to? It’s related to the joy of balancing along a curb, instead of using the sidewalk.
And lastly, when I was headed back to the parking lot to get my backpack (you don’t think I carried it all over the place with me?), I stopped at my favorite tree on the back side of Hunter Hall. I don’t know what kind this one is, either. I just think the shape is fantastic, and it’s pretty sturdy, though I don’t think an adult should sit on any of those branches, any time soon. Even the little new branches that stick out like whacked-out porcupine quills.
Didn’t think I could talk that much about trees and flowers, did you? Neither did I. I had a lot of fun on this trip. Now, I was curious to see what the lighting would be like in the afternoon, whether it was cloudy or clear. I’m still figuring out the best times of day for photographing both buildings and nature, so it’s an ever-continuing learning process.
P.S. When I arrived back at work, this week, the green was coming in around the white flowers. And despite a slightly stuffy nose, I sniffed and smelled something not quite right. I have a sneaky suspicion that these may be pear trees, after all, though they’re the funkiest shaped ones I’ve ever seen. Not positive yet, but if the smell gets worse, I’ll be sure. I suppose it could be worse. They could be durian trees. : )