Cottonwoods and sky: March 23, 2014
Arrived back in Laramie to azure skies and cottonwoods. I can’t say how much I love those trees, which grow on campus and line many of Laramie’s streets as well as thriving out on the plains. The plains cottonwood is Wyoming’s state tree (officially designated in 1947). It’s a member of the willow family, and related to the aspens and poplars that also grow here. Wyoming’s official state flower is the indian paintbrush, its bird the western meadowlark, the state grass the western wheatgrass, and its fish the cutthroat trout (threatened by habitat loss and the success of introduced, non-native species such as rainbow trout. See more on cutthroat trout). The cutthroat trout is also the state fish of Idaho and Montana. See below for more.
So, I wondered about other state trees. Living in Pasadena last summer while on a fellowship at the Huntington Library, I rode by bike every day through streets lined with pungent camphor and lemon gums. CalTech’s campus has some splendid examples, and it’s joy to walk through through their grounds in the evening. Camphor and lemon gums scent the air in ways that I’ll never forget (Proust had a point when he linked memory to smell, and I’m also partial to a madeleine). Of course, the Californian Redwood is California’s state tree. I’m not sure whether that designation is meant to include both the coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, and the giant sequoia, Sequoia gigantic.
For the above and other environmental state symbols see: State Symbols
The Cottonwood in literature and on YouTube: I recommend Kathleen Cain’s book The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion (Boulder, Co: Johnson Books, 2007) and her short video for Eco Diary, The Cottonwood Tree.