New Arboretum exhibit tells trees’ tales
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media June 22, 2012 2:20PM
The Bur Oak Clubhouse is one of six tree houses featured in the Morton Arboretum’s “Tree House Tales” exhibit running through fall of 2013 in Lisle. | Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum
Tree House Tales
♦ The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
♦ Tickets, $9-$12
♦ (630) 968-0074
Every tree has a story to tell. That’s the premise behind the new exhibit at the Morton Arboretum.
“We’re always looking for new ways to engage our visitors with our living collections,” said Anamari Dorgan, head of visitors services at the Morton Arboretum. “How to convey those things in a fun and engaging way is always a challenge for us.”
Tree House Tales is a semi-permanent exhibition aimed at children ages 2 to 10 that comprises six kid-friendly, fun-filled and educational tree houses, she said. Each house celebrates the story and significance of a species of tree.
Hence, every tree has a story.
“You can find hundreds of stories walking around the city embedded within a tree,” she said. “And 99 percent of those stories are woven into the history and culture of people. We have these innate, historic, cultural relationships with trees that we oftentimes do not think about. This was an opportunity to shine a light on that.”
She hopes this exhibit not only educates visitors, but encourages exploration outside the nature center. She also hopes it appeals to kids as well as their parents, tapping into their sense of nostalgia.
Each tree house is designed for interactive and educational play. The tree houses include: the Bur Oak Clubhouse Hideaway with a faux-tin roof shed, a porch and a secret entrance; the Flowering Dogwood Doghouse; a red structure that invites kids to nose around and experience the life of a pampered pooch; and the Empress Tree Castle with the drawbridge entrance and slide.
Then there’s the rustic, frontier-themed White Oak Settler’s Cabin; the Silver Maple Tree House, which helps children understand the interior world of a tree; and the White Pine Ship with its figurative mast.
Kids can not only play in and on the tree houses, they’ll pick some knowledge at the same time.
The bur oak, for example, has an extensive root system that keeps other trees at bay. The hardy white oak’s thick fire-resistant bark helped it survive prairie fires, making it a favorite among early settlers. And the White Pine played a role in American history. During the Revolutionary War, the British tried to take White Pine trunks for ship masts, leading American tree farmers to rebel.
Throughout the summer, Tree House Tales docents will be on hand to tell more stories as well as answer questions.
Part two of Tree House Tales — with four new elements and stories — will open in 2013.
“We’re all about telling the story of the tree. We don’t want you to miss it.”