Leaves of Chestnut oak are frilled as,
or curl like ocean cresting waves,
bunched like mimics of bananas:
nothing else looks quite the same.
If you adore pink in profusion,
though full blossoms match a bride,
you’ll love Rosebay rhododendron
rising creek to mountainside.
Pitch pine stands tall, arms all graceful,
tapers to the very top;
‘Candlewood’, some still do call it —
for the resin in its knots.
There are many other lovelies:
Walnut, Locust, Birch and Elm;
good for arrows, fire, or paper —
Black willow in the medical realm.
Cherokees, the local Indians
made dark baskets from its twigs;
or from its Salix bark took acid,
and brewed a headache cure to swig!
Then there’s glossy Mountain laurel,
leaves shaped like an Egyptian wink;
darling with its miniature flowers,
striped and spiked in white and pink.
Now our special Smoky favourite:
we have saved the best to last:
though its parrot-coloured flower
blooms in May and then is past —
No, it’s not a sort of maple,
though we love the smoke-sweet sap;
though they glow from red to yellow
from Rocky Top to Newfound Gap;
Nor is any oak the winner
though the Scarlet has a claim:
deep-cut leaves, whose points are tufted,
red in Fall like brilliant paint.
No, the crown of this tree pageant
must go to the Tuliptree —
more stately than a broad Box-elder;
taller, too, than Hickory.
Though the Latin, ‘Liriondendron',
suits this beauty to the ground,
still its leaves, arched like the flower,
makes its short name right and sound.