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Noticing Nature – December

What are you noticing this month? With all the business of the season, it’s difficult to stop and take notice. Take just a few minutes, and I’m positive you will notice something!

I have been guilty myself this month of not enjoying as much time outside as I’d like to. I have noticed that the pretty leaves are almost gone. Our last tree to begin to lose its leaves was an American Beech. It seemed as if our colors this fall were extra vibrant, so I hope you took notice while they lasted. December, like many months in eastern NC, is ever changing. Just this week it was nearly 80 degrees, but now it is in the low 40’s. I like that any given month where I live there are a few days to get outside and not freeze! For what’s left of this month, I have a few ideas for your teens to take notice of outside – and the stories behind them!

Mistletoe – Pucker up under the parasite (or not)!

Get outside with your teens and go on a mistletoe hunt! They may be surprised to learn that mistletoe is a toxic parasite that’s been connected in the homicide of a Norse god. A few other interesting things about mistletoe: it sinks in water, can weigh up to 50 pounds, is found on every continent except Antarctica, and it’s name means dung on a twig. American mistletoe is found from New Jersey to Florida and west through Texas. The smaller dwarf mistletoe, is found in western United States.

In my area of coastal NC, you can usually find mistletoe on oaks and red maples and will be obvious once you start looking for it. I saw that we had an abundance in our own backyard when I simply looked up! This is a great site for more information. If you’re in eastern NC, you may even consider a mistletoe river cruise for next year!

Evergreen Trees

The evergreens are obviously easy to find this time of year. Whether you find them in your home or in the woods, now is a good time to identify them. Remember the Seek app I mentioned back in October? It’s been a fantastic tool to help identify trees. Something else that may interest your teen is this article from Most are familiar with the pagan origins associated with the evergreen, but did you know there was once a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense? People were even fined for hanging decorations up in Massachusetts! Find out the interesting American history as well as information about how other countries use Christmas trees here.

During our recent trip to the NC mountains, most of the vehicles had a tree strapped to the roof. The Christmas tree industry is huge in NC, and we passed several tree farms while on vacation. Something common to see on my end of the state are Christmas trees on the beach! They have been helpful in erosion control of the dunes, and work better than sand fences. They have been collecting trees for over 50 years in my area for this purpose. Perhaps your teen can use their muscles and volunteer – What a great excuse to head to the beach in January!

Things to notice….not in nature

Two more things to notice not necessarily in nature, but outdoors just the same. Load up your teens and go on a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt! I’ve had this pinned for years, and I’m finally getting around to it this year! Scroll to the bottom of the above link for a printable PDF. While you’re at it, check out how they do the “Lightsy” Awards. Finish the evening with hot chocolate and cookies!

Another fun thing to do outside is have a candy Cane hunt – in the woods. We have a small patch of woods at out home, and one year I simply hung candy canes on the branches for them to find. That was so long ago, but kids of all ages enjoy a good hunt. This can be turned into a challenging competition for big kids!

One final thing I want to mention and encourage you and your teens to do in 2020 is the NC 100 Mile Challenge. I’ll let you know more about it in next month’s post, but for now, just sign up! If you’re not in NC, check to see if your state offers any similar challenges.

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