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Beauty will save the world, boldly pronounced Dostoyevsky. The inspirational beauty of the Legacy Center arboretum is being documented on an ongoing basis by acclaimed nature photographer Peter Van Rhijn. From scenic landscapes to macro close-ups, we uncover the wonders of nature to share with all ages.

Legacy Center Arboretum Photo of the Week ©Peter Van Rhijn

The Legacy Center arboretum is a physical legacy created to help heal the planet, and it's a metaphor for legacy. Each tree in the arboretum has its own story.

The White Pine in the photo is over 100 years old. The little pine started to grow on its own in a wild area of the Legacy Center arboretum. We transplanted it beside the old White Pine so that it can learn from its ancestor. We call the trees grandparent and grandchild.

Where do you think it's best to plant a young tree: a clearing in an old-growth forest or an open field? Apparently, the young tree grows better when it's planted in an area with older trees. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the young tree are able to follow the pathways created by older trees and implant themselves more deeply. Over time, the roots of many trees may actually graft themselves to one another, creating an intricate, interdependent foundation hidden under the ground. In this way, stronger trees share resources with weaker ones so that the whole forest becomes healthier. That's legacy: an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.

Pinus strobus, commonly known as the Eastern White Pine, is a large pine native to eastern North America. You can find White Pines in Canada from Newfoundland west to Manitoba and down to Minnesota and, and south along the Appalachian Mountains to the northern edge of Georgia.

The White Pine is the only evergreen native to eastern North America with five needles in each cluster. The needles are straight, flexible, soft to the touch, dark blue-green in color with finely toothed edges. They give the tree its soft, feathery appearance. The needles stay on the tree for two or three years before turning brown and falling off in the autumn.

White Pine cones hang singly or in groups from branches near the tops of trees. They have 50 to 80 scales each, usually found in spiraling rows of five. Cones are 3-6 inches long and cylindrical when closed. When the cones mature, they open and release winged seeds.

On young trees, the bark is thin, smooth, and greenish-brown in color. On older trees, the bark becomes deeply fissured and dark grayish-brown in color.

The White Pine has the distinction of being the tallest tree in eastern North America, growing to heights of over 150 feet. The circumference of larger pines can be 10-15 feet. Mature trees can easily be 200-250 years old. Some White Pines live over 400 years. A tree growing near Syracuse, New York was dated to 458 years in the late 1980s, and trees in both Wisconsin and Michigan have approached 500 years in age.

White Pine needles contain a lot of Vitamin C. Pine resin has been used to waterproof baskets, pails and boats, and the sap can be processed to make turpentine. In addition, the sap apparently has a number of antimicrobials. Native Americans reportedly used the inner bark of the White Pine as an emergency food source. It has since been used as a thickener in soups and as an additive for bread dough.

The White Pine is also an important food source for animals – squirrels, chipmunks and field mice eat the seeds; porcupines eat the inner bark; and white-tailed deer eat the twigs.

Historically, the tall, straight, nearly branchless trunks of the White Pine made them ideally suited as masts for sailing vessels. Today, White Pine is considered the most valuable softwood lumber because of its uniform grain. Smaller specimens are popular as live Christmas trees; they hold their needles well, long after being cut down. One of the more rapid growing evergreens, White Pine is an excellent tree for reforestation.

The Eastern White Pine was named Ontario's official tree in 1984. The tree's beautiful silhouette was made famous by members of the Group of Seven artists. The White Pine is also the state tree of Maine and Michigan.

Evergreens often symbolize immortality and eternal life because they retain their leaves throughout the winter. The White Pine can represent good taste, dignity, sensitivity, and modesty. To the Haudenosaunee Native Americans, it's known as the Tree of Peace. And you should be careful what you say around a pine tree. According to old myth, the noise you hear when the breeze rustles through the needles is the trees whispering secrets to each other.

For more captivating images from the Legacy Center arboretum, check out the Legacy Project's Natural Inspirations Series, available as posters or a downloadable digital image file (with themes/writing prompts for classrooms).

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