Black Willow, checking in

As part of The Nature of Leadership, I’ll be documenting and reflecting on some of our class activities on this blog in the coming weeks. There will be a lot of nature talk, a little philosophy, and quite a bit of running around in the snow. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited. Stay tuned.

One of the first things we did in class was receive nature names and get divided into bands — cohorts that will stay together for the duration of the semester.

I’m part of the Cicada band, and the name I pulled was Black Willow. It’s not a majestic weather event or some variety of charismatic megafauna, but as a general enthusiast over the native plants of southeast Virginia after a dendrology class I took several semesters back, I kind of dig it. Black willows (their Latin name is Salix nigra) are interesting trees — they help stabilize the soil around waterways and are an important part of many riparian ecosystems. Their bark and branches can be used in basketwork and weaving, and their inner bark contains a bitter compound called salicylic acid — the chemical from which aspirin is synthesized. All in all, they are a plant whose moniker I am happy to adopt.

Plus, you know, they’re really lovely trees. Go down to the Duck Pond sometime and see them yourself.

(A bonus: I couldn’t help but think of the chart below as we pulled our names from the container. None of us, at least, are called Cheeseweed, which is probably for the best.)

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