Category Archives: Exploring

A perfect day among urban trees

Philly Trees:

Have you ever seen a photo of a newborn mammal? The way the light shines through the pink flesh, through the transparent eyelids and through the doughy snouts, a field of stars shining through every new finger and toe?

It shines through the new leaves in the same way.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the leaves…

Making a living from ancient olive trees

In more traditional American forestry circles, one can still hear “old growth” being used as a synonym for “over-mature,” the stage in the life of a tree or stand at which it begins to lose value as saw-timber. It’s worth remembering, however, that trees have many other economic values (to say nothing of cultural and ecological values) besides wood production — and sometimes these values actually increase with age. Examples include carbon sequestration, water storage and purification services, and the size of fruit or nut crops for certain species. Both sugar maples and rubber trees give more sap the older they get, so maple sugar and natural rubber production can take place within virtually unaltered old-growth landscapes. And many species of prized mushrooms do best in old-growth forests.

A less wild but still impressive example of the economic usefulness of ancient trees is exemplified by a new post at Spicelines blog, “Spain: From the Time of the Romans, an Ancient Olive Tree Bears Fruit.” The author visits a small-scale olive grower in Andalucia.

At least one of these ancient trees, which he calls “the millenary olive,” is estimated to be 1,800 years old, and may been planted in the time of the Romans. It’s an Hojiblanco and from a distance, it is an ungainly creature with branches, some broken or split, jutting at awkward angles. Only as we get closer do I see how massive the trunk is and how it spreads over the ground. It’s pockmarked with holes and deep crevasses, and on one side, where the wood has rotted away, there is a child-size hollow. “This is where I would hide myself when I was little,” Fermin says, laughing at the memory. “I would stay here for hours.”

This handsome relic still produces olives which lend their peppery, almond-like flavor to Vizcantar oils.

I’d heard that olive trees of great age were still producing oil all around the Mediterranean, so I was pleased to get this virtual tour of one such grove. Read the rest.

A visit to Białowieża forest

I was delighted to discover that one of my favorite travel bloggers, Maciej Cegłowski of Idle Words blog, has just written about the famed Białowieża forest on the border of Poland and Belarus — famed because it is the largest remnant of primeval forest in all of Europe.

Instead my first impression is of extreme clutter. It looks exactly like any other Polish forest, except no one has cleared all the dead branches and trees that lean in every direction or just lie rotting on the ground. Some trees have died in place and their bare trunks rise out of the undergrowth like ghostly masts. I fully expect to see the rusted skeleton of an Ursus tractor in between the brambles. The place looks like it could use some pruning and a judicious series of fires. I shoot Romek a wounded glance, but he has already disappeared into the trees.

As we walk deeper into the woods I begin to notice that the trees are very tall. In fact, I’ve never seen broadleaf trees this big before. If they were growing anywhere else there would be a chain around them, a little brass plaque, and a place to park the tour bus, but here they are just average. If you’ve ever been in a redwood forest you will know the feeling. The immensity isn’t immediately obvious because everything is on the same huge scale, but all you have to do is walk up to a trunk to realize that you are now a smurf. What looked like saplings from a distance are perfectly respectable beech or ash or linden that are just completely out of their class here.

Do read the rest.

February shelf fungi

For those of us in northern climes, winter can be a good time to look at moss, lichen, and the woodier shelf fungi. British blogger Lucy Corrander finds and photographs February fungi on old, felled and fallen wood of yew and sycamore. (If you know your U.K. polypores, stop by and help her out with the i.d.s.)

A visit to one of Britain’s tallest trees

Ashley Peace at treeblog visited the Hermitage, Dunkeld (in the Scottish Highlands), to see Britain’s 3rd tallest tree, and came back with some fine black-and-white photos of the tree and the surrounding area.

How do you unfollow a tree?

Just because she’s started following a new tree this year, Lucy at Loose and Leafy has found that she can’t abandon last year’s sycamore. She shares some new photos of the tree and its forb companions, and concludes the post with a list of links to other tree-followers. (Add your blog to the list by finding a tree of your own to follow this year.)

How to identify a porcupine tree

I like to joke that the porcupine is my totem animal: it’s bristly, solitary, likes caves and loves trees! If you live in the northern U.S. or Canada, winter is the best time to look for signs of the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). Rebecca in the Woods shows us what to look for.

Planting tree-photos on Google Earth

Flickr and other photo-sharing sites welcome geolocation data, but Brazilian tree-blogger Juilana at Árvores Vivas demonstrates how to incorporate pictures of trees with detailed captions into the most widely used online mapping tools, Google maps and Google Earth, through Panoramio. Though photos may be browsed withion social groups, getting them onto Google maps and Google Earth is not automatic, as Panoramio’s Help page on the topic explains.

Needless to say, we strongly encourage tree lovers all over the world to give this a try. For inspiration — and just for general interest — here are Juliana’s photos. Click the link at the top of that page to view them on Google Earth, if you have the software on your computer.

Follow a tree!

Lucy at Loose and Leafy has picked up the torch from The Tree Year and is offering to link to and help coordinate tree followers this year.

If they (you) or anyone wants attention drawn to their ‘special tree’ posts on Loose and Leafy, let me know and I’ll put a link at the foot of my next post – whatever it’s about. No special day. No set time – just let me know if you post (either by leaving a comment or by emailing me at looseandleafy@googlemail.com). If enough people are following trees, I’ll add a tab with a list at the top of the blog.

The best thing about following trees, it seems to me, is their relatively slow rate of travel. Also, Lucy says, you can follow dead trees as well as living ones. Try doing that with people on Twitter!

If you could follow one tree for a year, what would it be?

British blogger Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy followed a sycamore tree last year, but says its size was a disadvantage — “all the ‘action’ happens high up. At ground level, shade and location mean it’s not a good place for other plants to grow… what little there is that struggles into life between its toes tends to get nibbled as soon as it shows its head above ground.” She doesn’t want to blog about trees in isolation, but as members of an ecological community.

So this year’s tree, by contrast, is part of a small but dense clump of vegetation, and is so small and “scraggy,” it’s “hardly a tree at all.” But a tree it is, and one of some significant folkloric and even exotic appeal to this North American reader (though we do have a closely related member of the same genus). What’s the species? Read the post to find out.

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