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DATE: June 11, 2003

Student creates self-guided tour of medicinal trees in Natural Areas

DEARBORN---Nature enthusiasts visiting the Environmental Interpretive Center can learn about the diversity of trees in the campus's Natural Areas with the help of a new, free trail guide.

The brochure takes visitors on a self-guided tour of the White Oak Trail, located on the west side of Fairlane Lake, and explains the medicinal and traditional uses of marked trees along an 80-meter stretch of the trail.

Student Greg Norwood in the Natural Areas

"I didn't want a long trail," said student Greg Norwood, who created the brochure as a project for his ethnobotany course with anthropology Prof. Daniel Moerman. "I thought a short, compact trail would really wake people up to the diversity of trees we have here in Michigan."

The guide identifies eight of the more than 40 species of trees found in the Natural Areas and lists the natural histories, distinguishing marks, and medicinal and traditional uses of each tree.

For instance, the guide tells readers that the Eastern Hop Hornbeam tree appears slightly bent in the middle and has a narrow girth, yet produces the strongest wood in the Natural Areas. Pioneers of the eastern deciduous forests used the wood for handles of levers, mallets or axes, according to the brochure. Also, Chippewa Indians placed the heartwood of the branches in hot liquid with other plants and drank it for lung hemorrhages, or made cough syrup.

"The thing that made this work was the idea to do trees, which you can find all year round, instead of wildflowers or other plants," according to Moerman. "I'd worked with EIC program coordinator Dorothy McLeer some time ago on a similar idea, but we were always stumped by the problem of seasonality. But the trees are always there, and Greg took the idea, and ran with it. He did a really good job."

Norwood, an environmental studies freshman, said he designed the brochure not as a general tree guide, but as one that speaks about the specific tree in front of the reader.

"It's not a look at Hornbeam trees in general, I want people to study this Hornbeam tree," said Norwood, standing on the trail, pointing to the small tree nearby.

Norwood, a Dearborn resident and graduate of Divine Child High School, volunteers part-time at the EIC, surveying and banding birds. He hopes visitors will enjoy the new guide and benefit from the living history of the trees along the trail.

"It's nice to have a place like this so close to home," Norwood said.

Brochures will be available inside the Environmental Interpretive Center as soon as posts are installed identifying the trees along the trail.

The Environmental Interpretive Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Natural Areas trails are open from dawn to dusk. For more information, call the EIC at (313) 593-5338.

Norwood stands at the beginning of the White Oak Trail.

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