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Bug Bites Reveal More - Birch verses Aspen Trees

Posted on July 19, 2017 by Kate Moynihan | 0 comments
A swarm of mosquitoes gorged my bare legs, and no-see-ums hovered around my head while I trudged deeply in the woods of Pikesview Reservoir in Colorado Springs. Slapping and shooing the buzzing bugs, I pressed on seeking an answer. 

For 60+ years, as a Michigan native, I assumed all the white-barked trees I favored in my paintings were inspired by the Paper Birch, a common tree in my homeland state. So on my first-time-ever trip to Colorado I expected to see the Quaking Aspen. Which I did, but from the distance it looked eerily like the birch tree. Same crisp white and black bark, same fluttering leaves.

As my skin swelled with a mix of big puffy pink bites and tiny red pinpoints I waded deeper for a closer look. Sure enough, in the midst of Colorado forest the birch stood with its bark peeling off in thin wispy layers, having a chalky feel. Not more than a few feet away towered the aspen, its bark smooth to touch. True to its name the heart-shaped aspen leaves quivered, while the oval-shaped, toothed edge birch leaves took a bit more breeze to flutter. I was stunned to see them growing side-by-side.

I escaped the woods and took a Benadryl hoping the antihistamine would attack the welts that covered me. Several hours later all I had was a medicine hangover that made me feel like I was wearing a paper bag over my head. My eyes felt gritty as if sandpaper rubbed them and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. The antihistamine dried up everything, except the sensation to scratch at the mosquito and no-see-um stings.

Next time this non-camping gal will do an internet search for inspiration as it only took a few keystrokes in the comfort of an air conditioned office to learn birch and aspen can both be found along the tree line across Alaska to down to Iowa and through much of the Rocky Mountains into Michigan and Pennsylvania. 
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