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NOTES FROM A MUSKY TRAIL HIKER #4: Perfectly Imperfect

A regular blog sharing a biology observation from my hike on the Musconetcong Wildlife Management Area trail in Asbury.


Walk along the more wooded part of the Musky Trail and you will come across the magnificent tree shown in this photo. There was no angle I could take this picture from that shows the eight – yes, eight – trunks it has. That was the dead giveaway that it was a silver maple since they often have multiple stems. While they can live to be 130 years old or more, this once prized landscaping tree fell from grace over the years because of its structure. It is a fast-growing tree that provides great shade, but its limbs are weak and prone to breaking in high winds and ice storms. It has other bad habits, too like insect predation, fungi infestation, uncontrolled litter, and a mean streak that makes it bite into sewer lines and buckle sidewalks.

And yet…

Situated along the Musky River, this perfectly imperfect tree (also known as a “river maple”) is right where it belongs, providing an important food source and shelter for many birds and mammals. It has a shallow root system to withstand high water and those branch weaknesses eventually become great cavities for nesting squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. Insects love its sap and bees love its pollen.

I challenge you to get outside and find this great piece of biology on the trail and take a minute to appreciate its virtues. If there is a breeze, the tree may thank you by waving its silver-underside leaves at you.

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