By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Fifth-graders revel in Talk About Trees

But they discovered more about the importance of trees Thursday when Kathy Cvetko of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute came to visit. The Hillsboro woman is part of ORFI’s Talk About Trees program, aimed at kindergarten through eighth-graders.

Cvetko arrived at the McMinnville school loaded down with items to look at and touch: leaves and needles from various species; rounds cut from trunks to reveal growth rings; chunks of fresh wood and driftwood; small rectangles of hardwoods and softwoods, for comparison; and all sorts of wood products.

Trees are a renewable resource, she told the fifth-graders. Loggers cut down trees, but they also replant them — something required by law.

Replanting is also supported by logging companies. “They’re for sustainability,” she said.

Douglas fir is the most common kind of tree cut in Oregon. Oregon’s official state tree, it’s highly valued for use in construction, and is also a mainstay in the Christmas tree industry.

Conifers like Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir are cone-bearing trees that stay green all year long. Wood from them is soft, light, flexible and easy to work with; perfect for the framing of buildings, Cvetko said.

Wood from broadleaf trees, featuring flat leaves rather than needles, is hard, heavy and durable. They are often used by artists and furniture makers.

Broadleaf trees are usually deciduous, which means they drop their leaves annually. Conifers are usually evergreen, though some, like larch and tamarack, also shed their foliage in the winter.

Cvetko showed off a variety of leaves and seed containers from broadleaf trees. Some leaves were wide and flat, others sculpted like oak or maple, or elongated like willows.

Their seed containers vary widely, too. Some feature nuts, like walnuts, and others fruits, like apples and cherries. Some have unique seed pods, like acorns and maple tree “helicopters.”

She also showed students examples of needles and cones from different types of conifers. Cones vary widely in shape and texture, ranging from the stiff cones of pines to the softer ones of spruces and cedars. And they vary in size, from the 12-inch long cones of the sugar pine to the inch-long of the redwood.

Fifth-graders laughed as Cvetko held the tiny redwood cone between her thumb and forefinger. From such small cones grow the biggest trees of all.

Cvetko confirmed that statement, showing them a drawing of a 379-foot redwood, the nation’s tallest, and comparing it to manmade objects like the 151-foot Statue of Liberty.

“The size of the cone doesn’t tell you the size of the tree,” she noted.

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