Contributed by Guest Blogger Rick Sellano

Photos by Rick Sellano

A great way to experience trees of all ages—is Morris Arboretum’s unique Out on a Limb tree canopy exhibit. You’ll find it just beyond the Visitor Center along the path. The structure’s combination of metal grating and cables, set at interesting (and obviously, mathematically correct) angles, makes it both tall and unobtrusive. Tree freaks can take advantage of the attraction without feeling that they’re traversing an oddity that fell from space. This structure simply belongs.

Clever construction of this Morris Arboretum attraction—which you’ll discover some 50 feet up—means you won’t climb a single step! Once out there, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of a forest environment from a canopy walk high above ground level. One of the first trees you’ll see is a familiar chestnut oak (Quercus montana). Sharing the ecosystem is its neighbor, the umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) tree. Visitors will, no doubt, note the magnolia’s wide, smooth leaves. It’s the clustering of the leaves that suggests the idea of an umbrella, and thus confers the name.

While Out on a Limb, take the time to fully experience the umbrella magnolia. Its shiny leaves are oval-shaped, almost two feet long by a foot wide. I think the beauty of this tree is in the special qualities of its leaves. After all, for this tree, it’s probably not about the flowers. The blossoms of umbrella magnolia often have an unpleasant odor and are odd looking for a magnolia. But those leaves, when dried, are the stuff of beautiful DIY projects—especially wreaths. Last winter, the holiday wreath I created for my front door was first and foremost a ring of green and brown magnolia leaves.

Once the leaves and trees have enticed you to get out on the walkway, it will be challenging to stay in one spot. I found it difficult to stop myself from running to hug this oak, one of the trees that cuts its way through the canopy structure. Regardless of the trees you choose to experience, a fun thing is simply to take a gander at the ground. Looking down from the structure, place your feet in view, and find your line of sight to the bottom. Doing this will help keep nature’s high points in perspective.