Dendrology at the Forestry School

dendrology diagram of leaves

Dendrology (Ancient Greek: δένδρον, dendron, “tree”; and Ancient Greek: -λογία, -logia, science of or study of) or xylology (Ancient Greek: ξύλον, ksulon, “wood”) is the science and study of wooded plants (trees, shrubs, and lianas), specifically, their taxonomic classifications.

There are three ways to identify trees – the leaves, the bark and the general shape. So say’s my Daddy’s Dendrology course book. Circa 1945.

Returning from World War II, where he had a very bad war, Daddy went back to the farm. In his absence, his older brother, who took the one available farm deferment from the draft, became the right-hand man on the farm. He told Daddy, “we don’t need you around here.”

The words still hurt when he repeated them at age 84. But, as a young man, he pulled himself together and enrolled in The Pennsylvania Forestry School located in Mont Alto, Pennsylvania. He studied Dendrology.

I didn’t hear much about the curriculum, except that he failed chemistry. Which baffled me. I thought Daddy was the smartest man I knew. He said that for labs the professor would give them some material in a glass container, the “unknown,” and tell them to figure out what it was. He says he wasn’t very good at that.

I also heard about being loaded on a bus to go fight forest fires. They would have to fell trees and dig trenches to try to make fire lines to prevent the fire from spreading. It must have been like being back in the army, but of course, no one was shooting at you.

What I think actually happened is that he spent way too much time in the taverns trying to recover from the trauma of the war and his family. He talked about some road house on South Mountain where they would periodically have “negative case night.” The tuberculosis sanitarium would let some of the patients out on the town if their tests that day were “negative.” I always wondered what that meant. Either you had TB or you didn’t. I always thought, why were they allowed out sometimes and other times remained under quarantine; I can’t tell you.

He kept his course books from the Forestry School. I would try to read them. Dendrology was a favorite. He would take me on hikes and we would identify trees. He liked that.

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