Spring Is Here and So Is the Skunk Cabbage

With Spring comes the resurgence of the trees and plants.  One of the first plants to show itself at the TREE Center is Skunk Cabbage which emerges this time of year from the wet, muddy soil that it thrives in.  It’s most known for it’s strong, distinct odor that some compare to skunks, rotting flesh, bad garlic and other not-so-pleasant comparisons.
Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

The strong, musty smell may smother a story that makes this plant very interesting…  In the same way that some plants use flowers to attract pollinators like bees, the skunk cabbage uses its foul odor to attract its main pollinators, scavenging flies. The find the odor of the skunk cabbage very appetizing.
Skunk Cabbage needs wet, muddy soil and thrives in bogs, along stream beds and other places where there is a continuous source of water.  So the next time you see a skunk cabbage take a closer look because there’s a lot more to this plant than may meet your nose.
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Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

February 13, 2016

About 125 hearty souls braved the freezing cold temperatures for some fun outdoor adventures at this year’s Great Maine Outdoor Weekend event at the TREE Center in Sanford. Located on Bauneg Beg Lake, the TREE Center offered a day of winter activities to get people outside and active.

Free fishing day for the state of Maine meant no licenses were needed and over 80 people took to the ice and tried their luck at ice-fishing. Quite a few fish were caught – including one that was promptly cooked over the Center’s lakeside campfire by the adept fisherman who caught it!

Many of the visitors tried out the new ice-skating rink adjacent to the Welcome Center or put on snowshoes to walk the trails. New this year, letterboxing added a treasure hunt component to a hike in the woods.

Members of the Sanford Fire Department performed a cold water rescue with firefighter and paramedic Kevin Lambert as a mock victim of an ice-fishing accident that submerged him in the cold water through a hole in the ice. Lambert first demonstrated a technique to climb out onto the ice without help and then got back into the water to allow the emergency team to extricate him. Many thanks to firefighters Steve Langelier, Richard Earle, Steve Vincent, Jack Bogard and Ryan Goodreau for this impactful demonstration.

SFD Captain Dubois said, “We’re always interested in supporting this type of event and helping to educate the public.”

Cold Water Rescue Demo

Onlookers bundled in warm winter attire watch as firefighter/paramedic Kevin Lambert demonstrates how to climb out of a hole in the ice and roll away during a mock rescue by the Sanford Fire Department at the TREE Center’s Great Maine Outdoor Weekend event.

Maine Game Warden Carlton Richardson, who you may have seen on North Woods Law, a television series on Animal Planet, came by to meet GMOW participants, observe the cold water rescue demonstration and sign autographs. TREE Center Director, Mark Diedering said, “We were very happy to have Warden Richardson take the time to attend the event. For some local fans the highlight of the day was having the chance to meet him in person and have their picture taken with him.”

The TREE Center offered refreshments in the Commons Café, inside the cozy Visitor Center and free hot chocolate to warm up during the day’s activities. Play It Again Sports from Biddeford provided gift certificates for two raffle winners.

Diedering said, “One of the most enjoyable parts of the day was seeing so many participants try these winter activities for the first time.  This event really provided an opportunity for visitors to try something new, and it was great to see so many people take advantage of that opportunity here at the TREE Center.”

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Boring Wood Loving Beetles

August 28, 2015

Here at the TREE Center, we love campfires. We build campfires throughout any season. So it makes sense that we go through a lot of wood each year. This wood comes from various places, but our most recent deposit of wood came from a white pine tree that fell this past winter, a common tree in southern Maine. We hadn’t begun to use that pile of firewood yet, but yesterday I was passing by when I heard a creaking sound.

My curiosity got the best of me and I went to investigate. I heard this creaking sound like you hear when a tree is bending in the wind or when wood scrapes against another rough surface. I kept trying to figure out what it was when I noticed small piles of sawdust lying on many of the pine logs. I suddenly knew there were some boring insects feasting on our woodpile.

Beetles make up the vast majority of wood boring insects. They are actually quite vital to a forest ecosystem. They act as decomposers, allowing nutrients to be cycled back into the soil system and they also speed up the decay process of already weak trees, thus allowing for new growth to occur. One such beetle is the Large Flathead Pine Heartwood Borer Beetle.  However, there are some wood boring beetles that are invasive species such as the Asian Longhorn Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, which attack healthy living trees.

Although I never actually saw any of the beetles, I can only hope that none of the invasive beetles are feasting on our campfire wood. With any luck, these beetles are those boring old native New England beetles.

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Local Vacationland


August 14, 2015

Maine is known as “Vacationland” and with very good reason. The summer months with low humidity and temperatures in the 70s and 80s create perfect weather conditions for a vacation. Along with the great weather, Maine has 3000+ miles of beautiful coastline and a multitude of parks, trails, lakes, rivers, and campsites to take advantage of the outdoor activities. Many tourists visit Maine during the summer months to take part in the Maine lifestyle, but what about the locals? What places can they go to have a typical Maine vacation?

Here at the TREE Center in Sanford, we have opened our doors to locals for the summer so they can experience a beautiful spot without the hustle and bustle of the summer season. Kayak or swim in Bauneg Beg Lake, play on the playground, or hike on our trails. We’re a “hidden gem” in southern Maine that many people are just discovering this summer. We’d love for more people to understand how Maine is such a beautiful place and learn why it’s called “Vacationland”.

For more information about how you or your family can spend a day on the lake or even overnight in one of our cabins, call (207) 324-7955 x614 or email TREE@waban.org.


vacationland 5


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Family Vacations Aren’t What They Used To Be

July 31, 2015

I read an article this week about family bonds found within the animal kingdom. The article listed 6 animals that have been discovered to have very strong family/group bonds within their social circle. The list includes: Orcas, Chimps, Elephants, Prairie Dogs, and several others. After reading the article, I started to think we, as human beings, are just like these animal groups and thrive when we have our own family unit to rely on.

My parents decided they wanted to escape the humid and hot summer of North Carolina and spend a few weeks in southern Maine this summer, so they flew up a couple of weeks ago and have been staying with me since mid-July. When I told them I didn’t have enough vacation time to take off work and plan fun activities for them, they said it was fine; they would just come to work with me. So for a few days each week, they accompanied me to work and spent their days volunteering at camp, fixing things up, weeding, and organizing supply closets. For those of you asking, “Her parents volunteering at work is supposedly a vacation?” let me explain by saying that my parents are highly motivated people with a work ethic that surpasses many. They are both supposedly “retired” but they’re more active now than ever before. For example, while they were here, I tried multiple times to get them to just relax by the lake or maybe take out a kayak, and they both would just shrug and say, “Maybe after the jobs are done.”


How many other parents would volunteer at their daughter’s work place as a part of their vacation? I don’t know very many. Granted, I work in a beautiful place where many people can rent cabins and actually take a real vacation or even come for the day and have fun by the lake, but still, they volunteered their precious time to come and help the TREE Center run smoothly, which during our busiest season is truly a blessing within itself.

So the next time you think about how different humans are from animals, take a look at the family bonds within each group. We care for each other. We support one another. We defend our own. We really aren’t that different.

To read the whole article on family bonds within the animal world, follow this link http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/6-animals-strong-family-bonds/prairie-dogs

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Humming Tricksters

July 23, 2015

Life on the Lake, entry #5

One of my mother’s favorite sights in her patio garden is a hummingbird at one of the many feeders. If you’re lucky (and very still) you’ll get to see them fly from one plant to the next and then to the feeder. If you don’t see them, you’ll at least hear their wings beating rapidly. But be careful you’re not fooled into thinking it’s an actual hummingbird when in fact it may not even be a bird at all.

hummingbird moth I fell for such a thing last summer when I was passing by some of our beautiful flowers in front of the TREE Center. When I looked at the flying creature I was sure it was a hummingbird. It was flying like one. It even had the humming sound of one, but I took a closer look and found it had the face and body of a moth. Insert total confusion here.

I was intrigued by this creature that acted and sounded like a bird, yet looked like an entirely different classification of animal. I started doing some research and found there was such a thing as a Hummingbird Moth. A very appropriate name.

Now I’m not a big fan of moths. Ask anyone in my family, especially my sister or my cousins who witnessed a particular event during my childhood, and they’ll be happy to share the story with you as to why I don’t like them. However, the Hummingbird Moth is the exception to the rule.

hummingbird moth 2

Hummingbird Moths are widespread in North America and common to the Northeast US, so here in Southern Maine we are often treated to the opportunity of observing these intriguing insects. They feed on the nectar of flowers, using a long proboscis to get to the sweet meal. You can find these moths in a variety of habitats including open meadows, forest edges, and suburban gardens. Include any kind of butterfly bush or flowers to your garden and chances are you’ll see a hummingbird moth sometime this summer. Just don’t be fooled by its clever costume.

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