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Why Evergreen Trees Keep Their Leaves

Published August 15, 2007
Countries: USA
Age Levels: 5-6 and up

Why Evergreen Trees Keep their Leaves

As Retold by Dr. Mike Lockett, The Normal Storyteller

Winter was coming, and the birds had flown south where the air was warm and they could find food to eat. One little bird had broken its wing and could not fly with the others. It was alone in the cold world of ice and snow. The forest looked warm, and it made its way to the trees as well as it could to find a place to rest and ask for help.

First it came to a birch tree. "Beautiful birch tree," it said, "My wing is broken, and my friends have flown away. May I live among your branches till they come back to me?"

"No," answered the white birch tree, pulling her leaves close to her trunk away from the little bird. "I have enough birds on my branches in the summer. I don’t want anyone on my branches in the winter. I can do nothing for you."

"The birch is not very strong," said the little bird to itself, "and it might be that she could not hold me easily. I will ask the oak." So the bird said: "Great oak tree, you are so strong, will you please let me live among your branches until my friends come back in the springtime?"

"In the springtime!" cried the oak. "That is a long way off. How do I know what you might do in all that time? Birds are always looking for something to eat, and you might even eat up some of my acorns."

"Maybe the willow tree will be kind to me," thought the bird, and it said: "Kind willow, my wing is broken, and I cannot fly to the south with the other birds. May I live on your branches till the springtime?"

The willow did not act very kind towards the little bird. She pulled her branches close to her and said, "I do not know you, and we willows never talk to anyone that we do not know.  Maybe some less important trees will take in strange birds. Leave me at once."

The poor little bird did not know what to do. Its wing was not yet strong, but it began to fly away as well as it could. Before it had gone far a voice was heard. "Little bird," it said, "Where are you going?"

"I do not know," answered the bird sadly. "I am very cold."

"Come right here, then," said the friendly spruce tree. "You may make your home among my warmest branches all winter if you choose."

"Will you really let me?" asked the little bird happily.

"Of course, I will," answered the kind-hearted spruce tree. "Sit here on the branch where my leaves are thickest and softest."

A friendly pine tree that sat next to the spruce said, "I will help keep the North Wind from freezingyou and the spruce."

"I can help, too," said a smaller juniper tree. "I can give you berries all winter long. Every bird knows that juniper berries are good."

So the spruce gave the lonely little bird a home. The pine tree kept the cold North Wind away from it; and the juniper gave it berries to eat. The other trees looked on and talked together.

"I would not have winter birds on my branches," said the birch.

"I shall not give my acorns away for any one," said the oak.

"I never have anything to do with strangers," said the willow. Then the three trees pulled their leaves closely about them.

In the morning all of the green leaves from those threes lay on the ground. A cold North Wind had come during the night. Every leaf that it touched fell from the trees.  "May I touch every leaf in the forest?" asked the wind as it blew playfully.

"No," said the Frost King. "The trees that have been kind to the little bird with the broken wing may keep their leaves."

This is why the leaves of the spruce, the pine, and the juniper are always green, even in winter. They are called evergreens because their leaves stay green all-year-round.


Adapted from Florence Holbrook’s Book of Nature Myths, 1902.