Before the Quakers, there were trees.
The oldest fossil of a pine tree is charred wood from 140 million years ago. Hidden in the Guilford woods is the pine forest. Loblolly pines primarily grow here, their branches hovering just below the clouds. We don’t know exactly when or why they were planted, but some time in the past century, the forest of pines began to spread its roots. Now, the needles guard the dirt, create layer upon layer of fortification against the echoing ground.
Some pine trees grow as much as two feet a year. Other species only grow a foot a year. Though we often lump pine trees together based on their needles, we should take a step back, look at them closely. Which ones have bark clinging to the trunk? Which ones are flaky?
The trees are allowed to be free, to grow at their own rate, to change and stay still with seasons as they please. They let their needles go throughout the year. They don’t wait until the weather tells them it’s time, or until the other trees begin to brown. They grow green and drop brown all year long, needles constantly changing. Their pine needles grow in groups of three, never single and alone. They drop in threes. They stick together, and are consistent. They have a routine.
Loblolly pines are North Carolina’s primary source of timber, and are often used because of how quickly they grow. Their bark is best at around 60 years. The trees in the Guilford pine woods are at their mature state, bark flaking off. The Guilford woods are one of many that hosts pine trees; it’s planted all over North Carolina. If trees could vote, loblolly pines would win by a large margin.
The Guilford woods, though constantly changing, having existed in some form for hundreds of years. Though our loblolly pines are still young, they are surrounded by older trees. Here, there are tulip poplars, white oaks, dogwoods, and more. The greenery of the woods in spring covers the trees and the paths, a blur of chlorophyll at every turn.