Tree House Tales is the newest exhibit at the Morton Arboretum (mortonarb.org). Standing stately in the center of the White Pine Ship is its namesake tree. It's filling in as the ship's mast. White pines were extremely valuable to early settlers as they were used for ship building. At the Morton Arboretum, the white pine is also turning out to be a fan favorite.
"Because you can steer the ship and look out and like on the castle you can go up the ladder and look out and there is a draw bridge and it was really cool," Gavin Swartz said.
The Empress or Princess Tree Castle is also getting rave reviews --- and it, too, has a story to tell.
"The story behind the tree is even though it is native to China, the empress tree is named after for the daughter of a Russian czar who later became queen of the Netherlands," Anamari Dorgan, Morton Arboretum, said. "It was traditionally planted at a birth of a daughter in China so that when the daughter got married and reached maturity it would be cut down and to create her hope chest and the items for the dowry."
All six of the tree houses are positioned near the tree from which it is made --and each includes interactive features.
"There is a turner and then the water turns in grass and the grass turns into water again," Isabel Dreisilker, 6, said.
The houses teach about the tree's history in effort to educate visitors about the trees and to create a lasting connection with nature.
"Tree House tales is really aimed at pointing out the fact that every tree has a story to tell, and the history of trees and what trees are is woven into the history and culture of people through time and through space," Dorgan said.
Parents say it's also a good way to get children to appreciate the great outdoors.
"It's stuff like this that is going to make them remember you the know, how fun it is to be outside and enjoy you know the tress and what's around here," Teresa Dreisilker, parent, said.
The exhibit is geared toward children aged 2 to 10. Next year, the Morton Arboretum plans to add four more structures to create a second tree house village.