Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Aspens 

In the language of leaves and flowers, the aspen represented fear and gossip because its leaves were always trembling like a person in fear, or wagging like a gossiping tongue.  Stand under an aspen and listen, a slight breeze causes the leaves to wave and whisper like the sound of a brook rushing over rocks.  The leaf stems of aspen are flat not round.  Round stems give leaves strength to hold their position and resist the wind, but flat stems allow the wind to wiggle the leaf this way and that.  Why the difference?  Well, some speculate that during wind storms, the wiggling aspens leaves offer less resistance to the wind than the rigid leaves of other trees, resulting in fewer broken branches of the weak wooded aspen.

My favorite memory of aspen involves an old friend who died a few years back.  It seems she had fond memories of a country childhood spent playing around a small stream.  The sound of the water over rocks probably brought back pleasant sun warmed thoughts.  After her children were gone, the years passed, and she wanted to hear that sound again when she woke in the morning.  So on a whim they visited a local Christmas tree farm and asked how much for an aspen tree, they were willing to dig it  themselves.  The surprised owner told them that those weed trees were free and they could dig up every last one if they wanted. 

So that spring a clump of  aspens were planted near the windows and she heard the sound of the brook whenever she listened for it.  Her husband said the only problem was that the root sprouts kept trying to take over the yard but he took care of them with the lawn mower and an old hatchet. 

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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