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The Will to Survive

November 2020

By Ranger Amy

Hollowed out tree trunkAs I drive through the park, I am drawn to the strangeness of our trees. If one were to look closely, lessons in strength, resilience, and the ability to change are offered.

Trees surround every part of our lives. We build our homes with their bones. Much of our food is from their fruits, and we can warm ourselves by their fires. When visiting a park, we share their space and heal our heavy hearts.

The way we perceive trees has changed in recent years. We know that trees convey messages and share nutrients through a network of mushroom “roots” called mycelium.


When observing trees in the park you’re likely to find several lying on their sides. One might think this would be a death sentence, but they’re resilient. They found a way to change how they grow. Rather than growing tall and upright, their branches grew tall and strong, reaching the sunlight.

These trees are “sideways” survivors, teaching us that we can change the way we think we must live our lives.


The southern magnolia trees in the park are impressively large. Scattered among the healthy ones are those that are hollow and twisted. These hollow trees show incredible strength with their will to survive.

Even in their fragility, they provide for the local forest community. They provide food with their flower nectar and pollen, then again with their seeds. Their giant hollow bodies provide shelter for forest animals that need a warm safe place to hide.

These hollow trees seem like a frail shell, yet they’re strong, they live on and provide for many.


Closeup of rough tree bark with many little holesOn the bark of many trees are straight lines of small holes made by our migratory yellow-bellied woodpeckers. They tap tiny holes into trees so that their sap will create sticky bug traps. The woodpeckers then make the rounds, checking their bug traps and licking up the buggy sap.

The small holes don’t harm the tree, but on some trees, you can see hundreds (or thousands) of scarred over holes. The woodpeckers have been coming back to these trees, year, after year, after year. Like any other scar, these scars tell a story. A story about a woodpecker and a strong resilient tree.

Tree lessons

When you visit the park, look closely at our trees. Though they are still and quiet, they have lots to say. They teach us all about strength, resilience, and that sometimes change is necessary.