A Budding Detective
Characters: Harry Hare, Hawthorn Twig, Staghorn Sumac Twig, Basswood Twig, Cherry Twig, Sugar Maple Twig.
Harry Hare I am a hungry hare! Now, what should I have for supper? Twigs and buds? A little bark? I’ve eaten all the evergreen twigs I can reach, but it’s hard to tell these bare twigs apart without their leaves. This is going to take some good detective work!
Hawthorn Haw, haw, haw! You don’t need to be a detective to tell a hawthorn twig. You could find me with your eyes closed!
Hare Yikes! Those are big thorns! I guess it is easy to tell a hawthorn by its twigs.
Hawthorn It sure is – but keep a safe distance, or I might be a thorn in your side. Haw, haw, haw! (exits)
Hare That tree is hawful funny. Most trees don’t have thorns like that, and their twigs just look like a bunch of dead sticks.
Sumac Dead sticks, you say? Oh deer me, deer me, we leafless trees aren’t dead! We are merely dormant – asleep until spring.
Hare Well, dormant or dead, your twigs all look about the same.
Sumac Now, buck up, Harry Hare. Hoof it right over here and take a look at my twigs. They are quite unmistakable – quite.
Hare Okay, okay. Hmm. Your twigs are much thicker than the hawthorn and they don’t have any thorns… and they’re fuzzy! They look a bit like deer antlers covered in velvet.
Sumac Quite, quite, yes, and young stags do love to rub their antlers on us.
Hare Hmm, with all these clues, I should be able to figure this out…wait! You must be a staghorn sumac!
Sumac Well, I’m staggered. You’re right!
Hare I might just try a nibble…
Sumac Oh, do try somewhere else! My bark is very deer to me! (exits, basswood enters)
Hare Oh, okay. Here’s a different twig. No thorns or fuzzy bark. I wonder what these bumps are.
Basswood Hey, buddy! Those are my buds. They contain next year’s leaves.
Hare Inside this tiny bump is a leaf? That’s hard to be-leaf.
Basswood Well, be-leaf it or not, it’s true. My buds have tiny new leaves, flowers, and shoots inside. They’re important to me! And listen, buddy, buds can be useful clues. They can help you tell one twig from another.
Hare How can they do that?
Basswood First, look at where they are on the twig. They can be across from each other, or they can alternate like mine – one on this side, one on that side and so on.
Hare This side, that side…They zigzag!
Basswood Right. And the buds can be different colors or shapes or sizes.
Hare Yours are big, red, and rounded.
Basswood Well, I’ve got a lot of heart. Bees love my sweet nectar and people love my wood for carving. My inner bark is called “bast.” It’s used for weaving baskets. Have you figured out what I am?
Hare Ummm – a basket tree?
Basswood Not quite. I’m Basswood, the very bast wood around.
Hare You look good enough to eat.
Basswood Sure, go right ahead. I’ve got plenty of buds for next year’s growth. But you might want to leave room for dessert.
Basswood Sure, take a look around. I think you’ll find some really sweet twigs. (exits)
Hare Well then, bye, bye basswood. Let’s see what’s for dessert. (enter cherry) Why, here’s a twig with small, pointy buds. The bark has lines and speckles that look like sprinkles! Mmm! What kind of tree are you?
Cherry Ah, mon cheri, I am a cherry. You can tell because I have lenticels on my bark.
Hare Lentils? Yuck!
Cherry Not lentils, lenticels. They help me get air through my bark.
Hare Well, I don’t like lentils, but cherry sounds good! I’ll just take a nibble… (chewing sounds) Yuck! Your twigs taste awful!
Cherry Ah, but life is not always a bowl full of cherries! That bad taste protects our twigs from herbivores like you!
Hare Well, don’t worry. I’ll never eat another bite of your twigs!
Cherry Just as well! Goodbye. (exits)
Hare I’m beginning to see that there are many clues for telling twigs apart. But there must be an easier way to sleuth out a meal. I wonder…(exits)
Maple Ah, the days are getting longer and I’m starting to wake up. The sap’s beginning to run in my twigs. (enter hare) Why, hello there, Harry Hare.
Hare Hello, Sugar Maple! Mind if I nibble on your twigs and buds? I’m starving.
Maple Of course not. Go right ahead. I have plenty to spare. But how could you tell I was a sugar maple? Did you see that I don’t have thorns or fuzzy bark?
Maple Did you see that my buds are brown and pointy, and that my twigs are the color of maple syrup?
Maple Did you see how all my buds and twigs are opposite each other on the branch?
Maple Then how did you know I was a sugar maple?
Hare Because a hare like me doesn’t need to see a twig to know it’s tasty. We just use our detective noses to sniff ’em out! Thanks for the sweet treat, Sugar Maple.
Maple You’re welcome, Harry Hare. It’s my pleasure.