Art & Science, A Great Combination

A charter school in Washington, D.C is doing something few schools are: integrating the arts into science and language arts classes.

While the concept of cross-disciplinary teaching is not a new one, most are not school-wide practices. For Two Rivers Public Charter School, it’s at the heart of their mission.

Incorporating body movement, music, and fine arts into classroom lessons reinforces the concepts in new ways, ones that may stick with children long after the lesson is over. This is something that informal, environmental educators have been using for a long time. It has been well shown that you remember information better if you can associate it with more than one of your five senses. It’s great to see this school taking it to this level. Well done!

Check out their video to see their learning in action.

Want to learn more? Here’s how they’re doing this.


Pesky Little Bugs

Every year is the same thing. Brown bugs covering garages, getting inside sheds and houses, and making their way into window frames. It seems like an invasion in certain parts of the country.

Here in Michigan, we have no shortage of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs. Fortunately, they haven’t reached plague proportions, but they are still a nuisance. And thanks to the citizen scientists across the state, we now have a good idea of where they are! Thanks to regular residents reporting sightings, Michigan State University Extension has a better idea of the population of brown marmorated stink bugs and how they are distributed.

But there’s still more work to be done.

Most of the reports came from the southern part of the Lower Peninsula. That makes sense since that’s where most of the people are. So if you live (or visit) the Upper Peninsula or the northern Lower Peninsula, we still need your data! Read the article below to find out how.


Why and how to report sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs in your home or business

September 2017 update on why and how to report sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network.

Posted on September 18, 2017 by Julianna Wilson, Michigan State University Extension, Department of Entomology

Adult brown marmorated stink bugs like to move into homes in the fall to take shelter for the winter. They are harmless to humans and pets, but are on the verge of being an important pest in fruit and vegetable crops in Michigan. Photo by Jim Engelsma.

Adult brown marmorated stink bugs like to move into homes in the fall to take shelter for the winter. They are harmless to humans and pets, but are on the verge of being an important pest in fruit and vegetable crops in Michigan. Photo by Jim Engelsma.

When we first published this article in September 2015, we knew very little about where the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) would be found in Michigan. Now, thanks to the eager reporting by many hundreds of people who saw that first article, we now know it is well-established across most of the southern half of the Lower Peninsula (see map below). If you live outside of this area, especially in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula or in the Upper Peninsula, and would like to submit a report, please follow the instructions below. Otherwise, please check out the resources at the end of this article for more information on what BMSB is, what it is doing in homes and what to do about it.

What is the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB)?

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is a 0.5- by 0.625-inch shield-shaped insect that uses its piercing mouthparts to suck plant juices from fruits, seed pods and nuts on a wide variety of wild and cultivated plants. It was accidentally brought to North America from Asia sometime before 1996 and was first detected in Michigan in 2010. Also known by its scientific name, Halyomorpha halys, BMSB adults and nymphs – the immature stages of the bug – feed on a number of important fruit, vegetable and ornamental crops. Where it has been established for some time, it is now a major pest for growers of susceptible crops.

BMSB body parts

Brown marmorated stink bugs have dark and light banding along the margin of the insect’s body and white bands on its antennae and legs. Photo by Jeff Wildonger, USDA ARS BIIR

Part of the pattern of establishment by this pest is that it starts out as a nuisance pest in homes and businesses and then a few years later it becomes an important agricultural pest for neighboring growers. At this time of year in their native habitat, BMSB would normally look for shelter in south facing rocky outcroppings and other protected areas. The perfect surrogate turns out to be south-facing walls of man-made structures. It is important to note that BMSB do not bite humans or their pets – they are strictly plant-feeding insects. Also, they do not nest or reproduce in homes, they are simply finding a place to take shelter from the cold and will atempt to find their way out again when spring returns.

For information on how to prevent or get rid of this pest in your home, plus how to distinguish it from other common insects that are occasional home invaders, see this tip sheet from Michigan State University Extension: “The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB): Information for Michigan Residents on a New Home Invader.”

Who should report seeing BMSB?

If you or someone you know has seen this pest in or on the outside of your home or place of business, and you are outside of the area in which we now know it is well-established in Michigan (see map below), we want to hear from you! Go to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) website or mobile app, register as a user (it’s free) and follow the instructions for submitting a report. A few minutes of your time can be incredibly helpful in officially cataloging and tracking this invasive pest.

The MISIN website and the app are free to use – you simply register and log in, verify you do indeed have BMSB (by either comparing the bug or bugs you see with the photo in this article, by looking at the Species Factsheet provided by MISIN for BMSB or downloading the new tip sheet on brown marmorated stink bugs for homeowners), and then report the sighting or sightings. Users can also submit up to two images with every report if they are uncertain as to whether what they are seeing is BMSB. By reporting sightings of this pest, you will be helping growers in your area prepare for this pest by identifying potential new hotspots.

If you have trouble registering with MISIN and would like to report a sighting, email Julianna Wilson at with your nameaddress (or nearest crossroads), the date you saw them and how many you have seen. Again, if you have already reported from a particular address or live within the area where we know BMSB is well-established (see map below), we do not need to hear from you. Thank you!

BMSB 2017 Map

View larger image. As of September 2017, more than 12,000 reports have been submitted to MISIN from all but five Michigan counties. From these reports, we know BMSB is well-established in counties colored in red (darkest color), and we do not need any more reports if you see BMSB in these areas. Outside of the counties in red, we are interested in hearing where BMSB is being found. Reports should be submitted through the MISIN website.

Where to find more information about BMSB


*Original Article Published HERE.

Not All Bugs are Bad, These Could Save Your Garden

What you need to know about beneficial bugs

Not all insects are bad for your garden.

Tom Oder

September 27, 2017, 1:12 p.m.
A praying mantis sits on a purple flower

If beneficial bugs like mantises look threatening to you, imagine how the insects they hunt must feel. (Photo: Kamilla Blashchuk/Shutterstock)


If you have plants in your garden that attract pollinators, take a closer look at what’s landing on those flowers. Chances are they’re getting many more visitors than the honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies you’re accustomed to observing.

You’re likely to see an amazing diversity of smaller insects that you’ve never noticed before — damsel bugs, lacewings, wasps that look like wasps (and wasps that don’t) as well as a variety of flies that look like bees but aren’t. Look up, and you might even see a dragonfly hovering overhead. Welcome to the fascinating world of beneficial insects. It’s a little-noticed group, but one that brings not only diversity but also gives pollinator gardens an added super power: These good guys eat tiny bad guys, such as mites and aphids.

“Pollinators get a lot of press,” said Becky Griffin, the school and community garden coordinator for the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture. “But if you’re gardening to take care of your pollinators, go ahead and start taking a closer look, because you are going to be attracting all sorts of beneficial insects as well.” Being familiar with a wide variety of pollinators is a specialty for Griffin, who also manages UGA’s Pollinator Spaces Project, which encourages gardeners and public landscape managers to leave a dedicated space for pollinators.

A lacewing inspects a plant's stem Don’t let the delicate wings fool you. Lacewings are great at exterminating bad bugs. (Photo: Cornel Constantin/Shutterstock)

Griffin’s definition of a pollinator garden is as simple as it is achievable: It’s a garden in which the floral resources include a variety of plant and flower sizes that produce a succession of blooms throughout as much of the year as possible. This ecosystem will attract a surprising number and diversity of beneficial insects you won’t immediately recognize — simply because you aren’t used to looking for them. And even if you have been looking, they are easy to miss; they tend to be smaller than honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies.

To help identify beneficial insects, Griffin recommends contacting your local cooperative extension office. Ask them to send you copies of the information sheets they use rather than referring you to a bigger field guide.

“A field guide for insects would probably be overwhelming because it would include more insects than you want to know about,” she said, adding that beneficial insects tend to be localized. “By asking your county extension agent to send you the resources they use, you can create your own field guide,” she said. For example, here’s one for Southern gardeners: “Beneficial Insects, Spiders and Mites in the Southeast” [PDF] by Kris Braman, Frank Hale and Ayanava Majumdar from UGA, the University of Tennessee and Auburn University.

You also probably already have another handy insect ID tool in your pocket: a smartphone. Because the small size of beneficial insects complicates the difficulty in identifying them, put your camera phone close to the insect and use the magnifying option to enlarge your view. You can take a photo of it, or just use the enlarged view to help you compare the insect with another image.

A milkweed bug crawls along some flowers Here’s an example of a photo taken using the magnification feature on a phone camera. This is a large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), which is not a beneficial insect, by the way. Milkweed bugs are considered to be more of a nuisance than a threat to milkweed plants, but there is some disagreement on that point. (Photo: Tom Oder)

The magnifying feature can also be useful in determining the difference between insects, like comparing a bee and a fly that mimics a bee. “I like to tell beginners, ‘Go look at those insect faces,'” said Griffin. Specifically, use the enlargement function to look at the eyes. Flies have eyes that cover most of their heads. Another defining characteristic is whether the insect has hair on its body — bees do, flies usually don’t, or at least not as much as bees. A third characteristic, one that’s more difficult to distinguish even with a camera phone, is the number of wing pairs. Bees have two pair of wings, flies have one pair.

Magnifying options can also help you understand what the insect does. “If the mouthparts are chewing, then they may be chewing on your flower. If they have really good mandibles (jaws), they may be about to eat an insect.”

If you see something you don’t recognize, Griffin suggests emailing a photo to your county agent and asking him or her to ID the insect. In the meantime, here are photos and descriptions of 12 beneficial insects to start your own resource guide to helpful bugs.

Parasitic wasps

A parasitic wasp crawls along a flower Parasitic wasps can help you keep unwanted insects away from your plants. (Photo: Gilles Gonthier/flickr)

Parasitic wasps don’t look like wasps. In fact, they’re small enough that you may not even see them. You’ll see their work, though, in a reduction in pests such as aphids, scale insects and whiteflies. They help control pests by paralyzing them and laying their eggs inside them. To be able to do this, parasitic wasps must be small, usually only an eighth of an inch to a half-inch long.

“I noticed I was getting aphids on my lettuce, but I didn’t have time to do much about it,” Griffin explains. “Normally, I take a paper towel, dampen it and just wipe them off the lettuce leaves. A couple of days later, I got home and noticed that my aphid population had decreased even though I hadn’t done anything. So, I took a lettuce leaf and put it under my microscope and discovered that parasitic wasps had laid their eggs inside an aphid. As those eggs hatched, the larvae ate out the insides of the aphid and emerged as parasitic wasps.”

Griffin’s experience illustrates the importance of floral resources in or near the vegetable garden. They attract parasitic wasps and then help to keep their offspring around. “It’s a really kind of cool way to regulate your pests a little bit,” said Griffin. “If you have very small asters in your garden with flowers that are smaller than a penny, you may get a lot of these,” she said. Other plants with small flowers you may want to consider are fennel, chamomile and tansy.

Paper wasps

Polistes africanus, paper wasp These wasps will carry caterpillars back to their nests. (Photo: Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons)

In a very general way, paper wasps, which are typically reddish brown with yellow markings, resemble the more familiar and aggressive pest wasps. They love to feed on caterpillars and kill them by stinging and paralyzing them. Sometimes you can see one carrying a caterpillar back to its nest.

“People always wonder if a paper wasp is going to sting them,” Griffin said. That’s not likely, even though they have stingers. “Remember, if they are on the flowers, they are not interested in you unless you do something foolish.” Paper wasps are active throughout summer.

Lady beetles

A ladybug eats aphids on a stem Not only do ladybugs look good in your garden, but they love eating pesty insects. (Photo: Christian Musat/Shutterstock)

As children, we learned the nursery rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.” No wonder many adults still call these insects ladybugs. They are not bugs! They are beetles — lady beetles.

By any name, though, these recognizable bugs are popular with gardeners because they feast on aphids, scale insects, mites and mealybugs. Sometimes people buy them in cartons or netted containers and release them in the garden to control these pests. That’s an environmentally sound method of insect control. Just remember, though, that once you release them, you have no control over whether they’ll stay in your garden or fly elsewhere.

Something else to be aware of: It may not be a good thing if you see an insect resembling a lady beetle on your beans. That’s because it may be a Mexican bean beetle, a lady beetle look-alike that feeds on snap and lima beans. “By the same token, Mexican bean beetles are not going to be hanging out on your flowers,” said Griffin. So, If you see an oval spotted beetle like the one in the photo above on your flowers, it’s probably a lady beetle.


A Chrysoperla rufilabris, or lacewing, clings to a stem Lacewings will eat other lacewing larvae once they run out of tasty aphids. (Photo: Doug Lemke/Shutterstock)

The name “lacewing” does this insect an injustice in its adult stage when its diet is only nectar and pollen. The larval stage is another matter. In this stage, it’s known as the “aphid lion” or “aphid wolf” because the green lacewing (Chrysoperla rufilabris) will “wolf down” problem insects, as many as 200 aphids a week by some counts. And if it’s still hungry, it will cannibalize other lacewing larvae.

“They are neat, and it’s really fun if you can get your camera on them and watch their mouth parts,” said Griffin. Adults can be green or brown with their wings showing a distinct network of veins. The larvae are oblong and have soft bodies with distinctive sickle-shaped lower jaws.

Damsel bugs

A damsel bug crawls through flowers Damsel bugs can rescue your plants. (Photo: gailhampshire/flickr)

Many times when you see a plant with a lot of aphids, the first reaction is to hit it with an insecticide or to cut the flowers and stems, put them in a lawn bag with grass clippings and garden debris and set the bag on the curb. Try to resist that urge if you can and go with Plan B, which is to wait for nature to take its course and send beneficial insects such as damsel bugs to solve the problem for you.

Damsel bugs are slender and elongated and may be cream-colored, dark brown or black. They are most active in mid-summer and feed on thrips, aphids, mites and the eggs of many insect pests. If you can hang on and let the damsel bugs bring the population of bad guys into check, then you can leave the flowers alone and wait for them to go to seed in the fall and attract birds. But if the pests become an infestation, you may not be able to wait. That’s a judgment you will have to make. Some flowers such as gauria are known for attracting aphids.

Assassin bugs

An assassin bug crawls on a rock Assassin bugs live up to their names with a painful bite. (Photo: Andrew Butko/Wikimedia Commons)

Assassin bugs are bigger than many other beneficial insects. They are really interesting, but you shouldn’t pick them up because they can inflict a painful bite, Griffin said. So how big are they? “Not quite as big as a praying mantis, but about as big as your index finger.” How painful is their bite? “It won’t put you in the hospital, but you will know you have been bitten,” she said, adding that she likes to watch them from a safe distance. They move slowly, like a chameleon, and are generally oval-shaped or elongated with a head that’s noticeably long and narrow. They are usually black, orange-red or brown. They are predatory insects that feed on a wide variety of insects, ambushing their prey, piercing the victim’s body with a short three-segmented beak and then sucking out body fluids.

Two-spined soldier bugs

Spined soldier bug attacks a caterpillar Spined soldier bugs love to munch on caterpillars. (Photo: Russ Ottens/University of Georgia/Wikimedia Commons)

The two-spined soldier bug is the most common stink bug in North America. It gets its name from having a spine that comes off each shoulder. In the adult stage, its body is light brown and shield-shaped. It’s beneficial in the garden because it preys on more than 100 pest species, primarily caterpillars and beetle larvae. Gardeners should be aware that a mature squash bug — which is a garden pest — resembles the two-spined soldier bug. “If you see a bug that looks like the two-spined soldier bug on your squash or pumpkins, the chances are that it’s a squash bug and not a good bug,” said Griffin. Squash bugs suck the sap out of plants.

Garden spiders

A garden spider Argiope aurantia sits in its web Spiders will nosh on whatever insects wander into their web, so consider moving them if they set up shop in an area where you want your good bugs to thrive. (Photo: Krycheq/Wikimedia Commons)

Spiders are generalists when it comes to prey and will eat the bad guys as well as the good guys in your garden, says Griffin. “Spiders can be pretty much lumped together because they will spin a web and whatever gets caught in the web is what they will go for.”

You can often find garden spiders in the flowers you plant to attract beneficial insects in and around the vegetable garden. “I am trying to attract butterflies and bees, and I don’t want spiders eating those things.” When a spider shows up in an area where Griffin doesn’t want it, she has a handy way of solving the problem. “I found a really big riding spider in my cosmos plants, and I just got a big broom and put her on there and moved her to the other side of the garden where I knew there were some beetles she could trap. That kept her out of my bumble bee area!”

Praying mantis

A praying mantis on a tree stump A praying mantis may get overeager in its eating, so keep an eye out for lizards and small birds. (Photo: flaviano fabrizi/Shutterstock)

You don’t see them that often, but praying mantises are fun to watch when you do. They get their name from the way their front legs are folded into a position that looks like a person praying. These front legs have sharp spines that hold their prey, which include insects such as crickets and grasshoppers that harm crops as well as spiders, lizards, frogs and even small birds. They can sometimes be difficult to see because their colors and the shape of their body help them blend in with plants. “Whenever I find them, I always move them close in to where I want predators,” said Griffin. Their egg sacs, which can become a hardened mass on twigs or stems, can be another indicator of their presence.


A dragonfly sits on the water's surface Dragonflies enjoy hanging out near water, which means they appreciate nibbling on a mosquito now and then. (Photo: R0macho/Shutterstock)

Dragonflies were here before the dinosaurs roamed. Even thought they’ve been around for a long while, we underestimate them. “This is a beneficial insect that people don’t think about very often,” Griffin said. Unless you have a pond. Then you may think about them more often because there’s an aquatic aspect to dragonflies — the females lay eggs on the water’s surface or sometimes insert them into aquatic plants or mosses. If you have a pond, it’s good to have dragonflies around because dragonfly larvae will eat mosquito larvae and help keep mosquito populations under control.

Adult dragonflies have four sets of wings and an ability to operate each wing independently. That makes them excellent fliers, which is important because they catch all their prey with their legs while in flight. Their diet consists of numerous insects, including pests, such as mosquitoes and midges as well as butterflies, moths and even smaller dragonflies.

Syrphid flies

A hoverfly sits on a flower It may look like a bee, but this is a hoverfly. (Photo: John Chapman/Wikimedia Commons)

Syrphid flies are also known as hoverflies. They get that name from their ability to hover like tiny helicopters in your garden and from the ability to fly backwards, something highly unusual in the insect world. In the larval stage, they feed on pests such as aphids, scale, thrips and caterpillars. As adults, they help control aphids and act as pollinators on flowers as they hover over them. Many species look like bees. The best way to distinguish between a bee and a hoverfly in your garden is to look at the face. Flies have large eyes that cover most of the head. You can also look at the wings — if they’ll hold still long enough! Flies have two wings, while wasps and bees have four.

Robber flies

A particularly large robber fly Robber flies don’t even fear yellow jackets and hornets. (Photo: Pdeley/Wikimedia Commons)

A robber fly is a medium-to-large, stoutly built fly that’s sometimes called an assassin fly. This is an aggressive predator that will attack yellow jackets and hornets, the kinds of things other insects avoid. Because of that, they are considered a beneficial insect. However, they are not choosy and will attack pollinators, such as bees, even if the bee is larger than they are. They catch their prey by ambushing them in mid-air, kill their victims by paralyzing them and then eat them by sucking out their insides. A defining characteristic of these unique-looking, hump-backed insects is a distinctive hollow space between their large compound eyes.

When you see them zooming around your garden, the tendency is to think, “Oh my! Somebody’s on the prowl,” said Griffin. Their flight patterns, she added, make her think of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” “The robber fly is a really unique thing to look out for,” Griffin said. “They are very serious flyers, and when they show up, they are there to do business!”


via What you need to know about beneficial bugs | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Nature Works Everywhere Grants Available!

The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere program is awarding grants to K-12 public and charter schools across the United States. Check out the details below!

To find this information on their website, click here.

Grants for K–12 schools

students and their teacher work at planting in their school garden
© People’s Television

We are awarding grants to support projects that implement green infrastructure to address local environmental challenges. These include: access to healthy food, air quality, heat island effect, climate change, and storm water collection. Young people will work as social innovators to help their communities through project design and implementation.

Grants of $2,000 will be awarded to 60 public or charter schools across the United States. See the detailed grant description linked on this page for full requirements, guidelines, important dates, and online application information. Samples of an application, an applicant commitment letter, and an administration letter of support are also available.

Applications must be submitted online by 5 PM ET November 3, 2017.

To start a new online grant application, visit the grant application website. If you do not have an account there yet, choose “New Applicant.” After you create your account, you will receive an email confirming your account creation. Use the link provided in the email to start your application.

Or, if you have already started your application, you can sign in and edit it.

Email us if you have questions.

There’s Nothing Like a Good Book

Back to school is in full swing and classes are gearing up for another great year!

But just because you’re out of school it doesn’t mean you stop learning. No, now we get to read things because we’re genuinely interested in them! Imagine that. It can be a freeing feeling to expand your knowledge just because you want to.

And the world of nature education is full of fantastic books to satisfy your appetite. This is a great list from Children at Nature Play.

So find a good book, sit outside under a tree with a glass of apple cider and enjoy fall!


It’s a Jungle Out There!: 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids by Jennifer Ward

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda McGurk of Rain or Shine Mamma (pre-order)

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

A Natural Sense of Wonder by Rick Van Noy

Home Grown by Ben Hewitt

Sharing Nature by Joseph Cornell/Sharing Nature Worldwide

How to Raise a Wild Child by Dr. Scott Sampson

Whatever the Weather by Dawn Suzette Smith of Mud Puddles to Meteors

Companions in Wonder by Julie Dunlap and Stephen R. Keller

The Thunder Tree by Robert Michael Pyle

Wild Play by David Sobel

Children & Nature: Making Connections by Orion Magazine/Myrin Institute

Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom of TimberNook

Closer to the Ground by Dylan Tomine, Author

USDA Warns About Asian Longhorned Beetle

USDA warns about invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle

The US Department of Agriculture is asking residents along the Great Lakes corridor and beyond to watch out for an invader- the Asian Longhorned Beetle.




The bug is definitely creepy. It has long antennas with white stripes.  And a black glossy exterior with asymmetrical white spots. It can fly, but it doesn’t like to, said Andrea Locke the coordinator for WNY Prism, the organization was hosting the invasive clean up.

“This particular bug, it’s impressive. It’s a large bug. It’s about an inch to an inch and a half in size if folks see it they’re going to notice. It’s just a matter of connecting that noticing the bug and understanding that this is something that people need to report,” Locke said.

Essentially, the insect eats the tree from inside out. It burrows deep inside and lays eggs. The larva grows into an adult. It emerges leaving an exit hole. Its damage trees can’t usually recover from.

But, what does the damage look like?

You might see dime sized holes in the trunk or branches. Sometimes you’ll see tunneling marks. There’ll also be a sawdust like material on the ground.

“The Asian Longhorned Beetle is one of the most destructive forest pests that could have entered the United States,” said Rhonda Santos of the USDA.

The organization is trying to eliminate the bug. They inspect and remove infested trees. They also set up quarantine areas.  So far, the bug has led to the loss of more than 160,000 trees across the nation.

It was first detected in the US, in 1996. Experts believe it came from wooden packing material, used in cargo shipments from China.

“When we find an Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation it usually takes at least 10 years to be able to eliminate the beetle from that area. That goes back to finding every infested tree, removing it and, continuing to search the remaining trees, to make sure the beetle is not there,” she said.

The bug was eliminated from areas in Illinois and New Jersey. There are still active infestations in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York and Canada. This summer, the quarantine in southwest Ohio was expanded. Santos says they were proactively searching about a mile outside the zone and found a bug.

“There’s a concern that this insect can be where we don’t know it to be already. And certainly for the Great Lakes region, where you have so many trees,” Santos said. “Particularly, in the northern border of the US, those trees go right into Canada and because we have so many trees, that’s a greater risk that this pest could go after those trees in that area.”

Report findings at


Original article published on Great Lakes Echo.

An Ancient Tree Becomes an Unlikely Hero

Nothing tests a person’s perseverance like a natural disaster. Living in Michigan, where the worst we deal with is the occasional tornado, I can’t even imagine the devastation the people of Texas are dealing with in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The country’s thoughts are with them as they try to survive and rebuild.

And sometimes symbols of hope can come from the unlikeliest of places. Like a tree.

Not just any tree mind you, the Big Tree, thought to be the second oldest live oak in America. For more than 1,000 years this oak has stood firm through fire, flood, drought, and yes, hurricane. While younger trees fell around it, the Big Tree held strong through Harvey, surviving the storm unharmed.

In doing so, it has become a symbol of the spirit of Texas. The nearby plaque says it all:

“I am a live oak tree and I am very old … I can remember hundreds of hurricanes, most I’d rather forget, but I withstood.”


An ancient tree that stared down Hurricane Harvey has become an unlikely hero

Christian Cotroneo  August 31, 2017, 12:59 p.m.

Big tree at Goose Island State Park

Known as the Big Tree, this living oak has survived everything nature and humans could throw at it. (Photo: Wikipedia)


While much of Texas reels from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, one very old resident remains unbowed.

In fact, while younger, lesser trees in Goose Island State Park were left shattered in the storm’s wake, a mighty oak, — affectionately dubbed “the Big Tree” by locals — remains unbroken.

Earlier this week, Texas Parks and Wildlife posted a telling photo to its Facebook page. The scene — mulched, broken branches scattered everywhere — suggests a postcard from some arboreal apocalypse.

And on the back of that postcard? Harvey was here.

But one tree stood tall in the face of Harvey’s wrath. One Big Tree.

Big tree at Goose Island State Park surrounded by broken trees

Hurricane Harvey left trees at Goose Island State Park broken — with one notable exception. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)


In fact, the oak — considered the second oldest of its kind in America — not only stared down a hurricane, but emerged seemingly unscathed.

“You don’t get old by being weak,” the post noted.

Indeed, and it was just the kind of strength Texans needed to see.

‘We bend, but we don’t break’

“That big oak is a symbol of Texans everywhere,” wrote one Facebook commenter. “We bend, but we don’t break. God bless us all and God bless Texas. We will rebuild!”

Another commenter added, “This tree is Texas strong.”

Maybe that’s because the Big Tree has been there before. For more than 1,000 years, this mighty oak has held steadfast to its patch of earth.

It’s seen fire. It’s seen rain. It’s likely seen more than a few aspiring lumberjacks. And, according to local lore, it even stood tall in the middle of a Civil War battle.

There was a moment — barely a flicker in this oak’s long life — when people thought the Big Tree might need a hand.

Back in the summer of 2011, the area was hit by a harsh drought. There were concerns that this living landmark might finally be fading. But the fire department came to the rescue, dousing the tree in 11,000 gallons of water — essentially simulating about a half an inch of rainfall. The parched tree lapped it up and since then, it has been a living symbol of unshakable resolve.

Then Harvey came knocking. And the Big Tree was undaunted — reminding us that not all heroes leap over tall buildings. Some simply stand their ground to inspire.

If the Big Tree’s very sight — its massive, sheltering branches and impenetrable trunk — doesn’t already inspire us with a sense of perseverance, then there’s always the nearby plaque.

It reads: “I am a live oak tree and I am very old … I can remember hundreds of hurricanes, most I’d rather forget, but I withstood.”

And Harvey, too, shall pass.