By John Nelson
It’s my favorite tree. Has to be!
Everything about it is interesting, and all its parts are attractive. I first learned about this tree when I was a tiny undergraduate student in my first botany class. Our field trip was to the wild and mysterious Congaree Swamp, where this tree is common along the bluffs that border the floodplain. There we learned that it is sometimes called “initial tree,” a reference to the practice of carving one’s initials into the bark, which is very smooth.