One remembers the monument itself from the climax of the movie Brainstorm. Here I’m interested in some of the exquisitely noble trees I saw at the periphery of the circle around the monument. Most were live oaks, quercus virginiana.

Figure 1. Live oak, quercus virginiana. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

I begin (figure 1) with the noblest of the oaks I saw. These trees grow in the strong winds of the Outer Banks and this one has been deformed be strong winds from the left (northeast) to the right (southwest). Lichen coats the bark all over, and in some places it is apparently eating the tree’s smaller branches away. The soil is sandy with scrub and very small cactuses. Details show the fantastic patterns of the lichen (figures 2, 3).

Figure 2. Live oak, quercus virginiana, from figure 1. Detail from west. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 3. Live oak, quercus virginiana, from figure 1. Detail from the east. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

At one point the live oak in figure 1 touches branch tips with another tree (figure 4), reminding me of the famous ‘God and Adam’ scene in the Sistine Chapel.

Figure 4. ‘God and Adam’, two touching live oak trees. On the left, the tree from figure 1. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

More often than not, though individual trees develop a dark canopy, there’s light that filters down from above. I found one group of trees darker than usual with one grabbing all the light in the center and bearing red vine leaves like a victory wreath (figure 5).

Figure 5. ‘To the winner goes the laurels;’ Live oak, trunks. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

A really interesting row of oaks with spreading, curved limbs formed almost one half of an arcade (figure 6). Like the oak in figure 1, the wind coming in from the shore has pushed them away toward our right.

Figure 6. Line of live oaks blown right. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

I came across what was effectively an irregular ring of oak trunks rising together. My working hypothesis is that these were suckers out of a now-gone, large-diameter trunk at their center. In figure 7, that old lost trunk would have risen where the small green shrub can be seen at the bottom center of the image.

Figure 7. Live oak ring. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

Live oak is an evergreen, which means this fairly young specimen has died, pushing it into oxymoron (or zombie) territory.

Figure 8. Dead live oak, quercus virginiana. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

There were a goodly number of sweetgum trees on the edges of the oak copses and some stands of conifers (figures 9, 10, 11). The sweetgums had attractive stark grey-white branches that stood out against the darker green background. Those in figure 9 remind me somehow of the three witches in Macbeth.

Figure 9. Sweetgum trees. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 10. Sweetgum trees. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 11. Sweetgum trees. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

And finally, a conifer had been cut down and its sections were serving as a platform for lichen and a meal for wood ear mushrooms against the dense detritus on the forest floor.

Figure 12. Chopped for shrooms. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo: author.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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