There are two strange little trees, the size of tall people, standing around in our chicken run.


I decided to figure out today what they are, and snipped off a V-shaped sample that included leaves and tiny green fruit, and carried it inside. For quite a while I methodically flipped through the Sibley tree guide, trying to be efficient and skip sections I knew weren’t right (maples, walnuts…) but of course getting caught repeatedly by the beauty of the illustrations, and the range maps, and the sheer spectacle of different leaf shapes that can appear on one individual tree. As always the expertise and brilliance and achievement of Sibley is nearly godlike.

I posited for a while that it was some kind of sour cherry, or chokecherry maybe, but then I got to the hackberry section and knew I’d found it; everything clicked, down to the pattern of leaf veins. It might be Southern hackberry or Northern hackberry, I thought; more research necessary to know for sure.

I told all this to my husband when he got home and he said our two neighbors, both of them natives of this hollow, had already told him these were hackberry trees a year or so ago, one day when they were all standing around.

Ah! I’m sure he passed that on to me at the time, but I totally forgot. That both neighbors knew this information implies that hackberry itself is a neighbor whose acquaintance we ought to cultivate. I felt satisfied and foolish at the same time.