It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since the derecho swept through Cedar Rapids. Here at the Nature Center, we lost well over half of our tree canopy. It will be decades before our woodlands fully recover, but that doesn’t mean what remains isn’t just as beautiful. A year later, we mourn the trees lost to the storm, but also celebrate the survivors and unique environment that remains. Over the last few weeks, ICNC staff selected some of their favorite trees and special places that exist today on our property. We’ve compiled the list below, along with locations so that you can find and enjoy them for yourself.
If you’d like to join us in sharing your favorite trees, whether they’re on our property or elsewhere, we’d love to see them. Tag us on social media with #myfavoritetreeicnc and/or #indiancreeknaturecenter.
A few of our favorites for you to explore:
Executive Director John Myers
Location: Behind Amazing Space (41.9668555, -91.5888638)
My favorite tree is a Hawkeye Apple Tree. It is located right outside my office window. I enjoy this tree for several reasons:
- Back in 1870, when the tree was a small, insignificant seedling, it was cut down several times in an orchard in Peru, Iowa. It was viewed as an unwelcome tree and its growth was not heralded. Showing tenacity, the tree kept growing back. Finally, it was allowed to live and was cultivated. Ten years later it produced fruit that the farmer called “the best apple in the whole world.” (History from www.trappleorchard.com)
- This Hawkeye Apple tree was planted by the staff upon the opening of Amazing Space as a celebration of the hard work and tenacity of generations of staff who built Indian Creek Nature Center. The tree’s history was appropriate in that situation and continues to be appropriate as our staff focuses on the future.
- This tree was blown over in the derecho, however the root system remained intact and with some assistance to stand it back up, it continues to grow in a very healthy manner. While not growing any fruit yet, the cultivation of this tree will yield shade, fruit, and beauty for many years to come.
Director of Land Stewardship Jean Wiedenheft
Location: Stimple Prairie Labrynth (41°58′5″ N 91°35′12″ W)
I love this swamp white oak* (Quercus bicolor) because it represents the strong relationships people have with each other and with nature. It was planted as a memorial tree to commemorate the life of a loved one. Its location in the center of the Baltic Labyrinth will enable it to play a pivotal role (shade on a hot summer day!) in the experiences of people who visit the labyrinth.**
This tree connects people who may never meet, but independently cherish their relationships, cherish this space, and cherish the land. I always feel a deep sense of gratitude when I am in its presence.
*Swamp white oak trees are long-lived, provide fantastic habitat for wildlife, and their rugged roots adapt to a wide range of soil conditions.
**If you want to walk the labyrinth, enter from the west entrance. If you want to spend more time meditating at the center with the tree, enter from the east entrance, which will take you directly to the center.
Registrar & Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Bailey
Location: Hazelnut Hideaway (outdoor classroom, 41.966405 -91.589481)
My current favorite tree on our campus is actually a cluster of THREE trees (two Ash and a Maple) that grow in the Outdoor Classroom!
These trees support and shade our shelter building station and provide so much beauty for the many children and families who visit. I love watching my girls play here and my oldest is a big fan of rearranging sticks and branches in this very spot.
Trail Manager Jason Bies
Location: Sac & Fox Trail near Blue Bridge on Bertram Rd (41.972878,-91.5820561)
This Black Walnut tree stretches over the Sac & Fox Trail just downstream of the Blue Bridge on Bertram Rd. At 50 inches in diameter it is at least 200 years old. I love its unique spreading form, which towers over that space. It lost a number of upper branches, and the new leaf pompoms add a whimsical look.
Farm Manager Scott Koepke
Location: Etzel Sugar Grove Farm (rural Marion)
My favorite tree sums up the hope I have learned from the derecho. In front of me is a dead sugar maple, toppled in the storm. Behind it (the one I am hugging!) is a young sugar maple that now has more photosynthesis due to the canopy opening up. Thousands of other younger trees are similarly benefitting from more sunlight. The next generation succeeding their elders! (Beautiful research, by the way, also inspires us that the microbial & fungal decomposition of the fallen tree is providing many beneficial nutrients to the young one!)
Marketing Manager Liz Zabel
Location: Bena Prairie (41°57’55.7″N 91°35’33.8″W)
This majestic maple is one of my most favorite trees on the Nature Center property simply because it is beautiful, especially in the fall. As a photographer, I have always loved the way the light kisses it good morning and glows from behind in the evening — its always caught my eye on the drive to and from Amazing Space. In the spring, a rainbow of Irises bloom around it, marking the former site of the Bena homestead. In the fall, it’s golden leaves stand out as you round the bend on Otis Road. While it lost a large limb in the derecho, I’m glad to see it still standing today.
Director of Education Kelli Kennon-Lane
Location: Wood Duck Way (41°57’59.5″N 91°34’57.9″W)
While this might not be my favorite living tree at ICNC, a large uprooted tree does provide a special opportunity for learning. We have the ability to explore a huge root system and see the interconnectedness this tree had with its neighbors. Children especially find this fascinating, providing a great learning opportunity. The derecho took a lot from us. It is our choice to use what is left or not.
Amazing Space Manager Sarah Botkin
Location: Overflow parking lot
I love this stand of Kentucky Coffee Trees because they are a reminder of how nature is our partner in the work we do. These trees are providing a boundary, shade and natural beauty in a parking lot (a necessary facility of any business).
Naturalist Andria Cossolotto
Location: Sycamore Loop Trail
Sycamore trees have long been a favorite tree of mine. I remember my grandparents having two in their front yard and I loved looking at the interesting bark and huge leaves. Because its mottled bark is easily recognizable, it is also one of the first trees I taught my kids to identify. This particular sycamore has a mysterious bend to it that is always noticed by students walking by. Because no one knows for sure why it is shaped the way it is, we all have fun taking turns guessing.
Trail Builder Jordan Barkow
Location: Penningroth Barn Yard
I chose this oak stump not so much because it is my favorite tree but more because of what it represents. This stump reminds me of Mother Mary prayer alcoves and while I’m not extremely religious, I feel that the imagery represents faith. Having faith that nature will heal and new opportunities for growth will present themselves after the devastation of the derecho. It gives me joy to pay honor to this tree and the thousands more that fell so that the younger, more ambitious trees can grow and thrive in their newly open environments.
Naturalist Emily Roediger
I couldn’t pick just one favorite tree…I don’t like picking favorites so I have a lot!
- I like the cedar tree on the edge of the prairie and woods because of how its green color sort of stands out in the fall and winter in the middle of the deciduous trees around that change color and lose their leaves. (41°58’06.5″N 91°35’06.9″W)
- I like the silver maple trees near the bridge that reach out over the creek and sort of make kind of an arch shape.(41°58’01.4″N 91°34’52.5″W)
- I like ALL of the oak trees because my backyard growing up had (or has –they’re mostly still there) oak trees. (41°58’04.0″N 91°35’17.6″W)
- I like the mulberry trees for summertime trail snacks. (41°58’03.9″N 91°34’50.3″W)
- I like this tree for the view across the prairie towards the wetland. (41°57’56.4″N 91°35’34.9″W)
- I like this tree even though it’s no longer alive because it’s good for climbing and hanging out. (41°58’01.9″N 91°34’59.7″W)
Trail Technician Gabe Anderson
Location: Bena Prairie
These are both oaks in the Bena prairie. If you go up to the ridge, you find the old trees. They’ve taken some damage but are still very much there. Very oak shaped. Down the slope a bit are the saplings. They’re still small, but someday they’ll get there.
Membership & Development Coordinator Nancy Lackner
Location: On the edge of Indian Creek (41.967820, -91.581990) & near the Sugar House (41.966374, -91.579349)
Indian Creek tree: I admire how this tree holds itself firmly in place with root (and maybe brute) strength as it leans over Indian Creek. I always look for and salute this beauty when walking across the pedestrian bridge.
Sugar House tree: I like how this rugged sentinel is firmly rooted in the ravine between the Penningroth Barn and the Sugar House. This tree has a stately presence and stands guard over a beautiful array of wildflowers each spring.
Director of Development & Marketing Sarah Halbrook
Location: Wood Duck Way Woodlands
I am really in awe of everything that is happening in the woodlands. Whether it is the downed trees that are creating habitat (and hopefully mushrooms next year!), the trees ICNC left to mark the occasion (the chair stumps being my favorite), the smaller trees getting their day in the sun or the glorious parts of the canopy that survived — walking the property is a different, but wondrous experience. I felt so grateful to have the chance to appreciate the beauty of an uncultivated space where we could honor Mother Nature’s own way of healing and emerging from a natural disaster. It filled me with so much hope for what each season will show us about her resilience and what treasures may have been hidden underneath the full canopy that used to be here.
PS – We’ve reopened tree print sales for the derecho anniversary — this week only! Purchase posters, notecard sets & originals (VERY LIMITED) created by local artists Jamie & Kyle Morrissey from three of our beloved trees that fell during the derecho. Orders will be accepted through Sunday, August. 15 for PICK-UP ONLY in our Creekside Shop (open daily 10 AM-4 PM) beginning Monday, September 6. Learn more & purchase here.
Originals: $500 each (extremely limited, 1 each)
Posters (16×20): $25 each or $70 for a set of all three
Notecards: $15 for a set of 12 (4 of each design)
Shop: Sunday, Aug. 8 – Sunday, Aug. 15
Pick-up: beginning Monday, September 6 in our Creekside Shop (open daily 10 AM-4 PM).