Thursday last week I heard from my father that a great oak had blown down overnight near Wrexham. From the internet I learned it was the Pontfadog Oak that had fallen – Britain’s second-biggest-girthed sessile oak (Quercus petraea). After doing a bit of research and discovering two other named oaks nearby (a story for another day), I decided to pay my respects and get some photographs of the fallen champion. So on Saturday morning I jumped in the car and drove the 100 miles to Wales – hey, if Yorkshire’s greatest lapsed treeblogger can’t do that, then who can?
I was in for a shock when I saw both the underside of the tree and the soil on which had it stood for centuries. Where were all the roots? For all intents and purposes, there was nothing at all to anchor it to the ground. The biggest roots there, which were really nothing, were completely rotten. There were a couple of small straggly roots that were live wood, but had that really managed to sustain the whole tree?
It’s long been known that cavitations — air bubbles that block the flow of water throughout the tree — make a sound that can be heard with a microphone. If too many of these cavitations occur, such as we might see in drought conditions, a tree can die.
The problem is that the sounds of cavitations, among other tree activity, are outside our usual range of hearing and can only be heard with the proper equipment. Then, the question of how to tell which sounds are indicative of cavitations — and therefore early warning signs of drought stress — was a bit of a doozy.
Until now. A team of scientists from Grenoble University, Saint-Martin-d’Hères in France, led by physicist Alexandre Ponomarenko, presented a study at last month’s meeting of the American Physical Society that seems to hold the promise of a day when what is now lost in translation could be found. Using a gel capsule-like device developed by Cornell University’s Dr. Abraham Stroock, the scientists were able to take a peek inside a simulated tree and observe the cavitations and other activity at the same time sounds were being recording. Cross referencing the visual and audio data, they were able to distinguish the sounds that corresponded with cavitations from other sounds, such as fractures in the wood.
The exiled Polish government succeeded in negotiating training and recruitment efforts in North America. In Canada, over 200 men were recruited and here’s the local connection: they received basic and mechanized infantry training at a camp that ran in Owen Sound from May 1941 to May 1942. This wood, or rather the one that existed before it but was logged after the war, formed part of their training ground. And this beech, part of that earlier forest, bears an inscription carved over 70 years ago by one of those soldiers. Though distorted by weathering and the expansion of the tree’s trunk, the words, “Polska” and the year “1942″ can be seen clearly. The rest of the wording is less clear, but has been deciphered and translated to reveal the soldier’s name and the words, “Poland shall not perish” (the first words of the Polish national anthem).
I don’t know the story of how this tree acquired the name “Zoom.” It had been named before my children were enrolled. Zoom is a large, multi-trunk western red-cedar, Thuja plicata, located outside the Children’s Museum. It is perfect for climbing. My son fully explored the spreading lower limbs from the age of 3 onward. Older children climb to the very top.
Climbing trees aren’t hard to find, but this tree offers more than that. The lowest hanging foliage makes a curtain and ducking underneath one enters a new place — the shade is cooling, sounds are filtered out, outside views are screened — you’re not standing at the base of Zoom, you are within Zoom.
Found along the eastern coast of Australia, are eucalypts known as Scribbly Gums. They were first described by European botanists in the 1700s, and since then have fascinated generations of Australians and visitors.
Until recently the scientific understanding of the scribbles was blurry. In the 1930s, entomologists discovered that the larvae of a very small moth caused the scribbles, It was identified as a new species and named Ogmograptis scribula – the scribbly gum moth.
In 1999 an observant student compared the scribbles on different species of eucalypts, found they were different and suggested that more than one species of moth might be responsible.
In 2005 two species of moth were collected from a tree with two different scribble tracks. This provided proof that more than one species was involved, and helped scientists to learn about the life cycle of the moths.
But it wasn’t until November 2012 that a breakthrough was made by a ‘retired’ moth expert, Dr Marianne Horak, working at the CSIRO National Insect Collection in an honorary capacity. Dr Horak discovered that there were at least 12 species of moths that made scribbles in bark, and described 11 new species of moth.
From The Hindu:
For the last several years, Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and increasing the green cover in and around it at the same time.
Here, villagers plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.
Over the last six years, people here have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons— including neem, sheesham, mango, Amla among others.
But this village of 8,000 did not just stop at planting trees and greening their commons. To prevent these trees from being infested with termite, the residents planted over two and a half million Aloevera plants around them. Now these trees, especially the Aloevera, are a source of livelihood for several residents.
John Laurenson (BBC News) writes about “Stradivarius trees: Searching for perfect musical wood” — such a great story, it prompted me to bring this blog out of retirement.
Pellegrini is a tree picker. He will find you the spruce in 10,000 that is just right. He will find you the “Stradivarius tree”.
“Lentement, lentement, lentement,” he says. “Slowly, slowly, slowly”.
That’s how violin trees should grow.
“Up in these mountains, they grow so slowly sometimes they stop growing altogether. They just gather strength. There are trees up here that are a thousand years old,” he says.
Pellegrini “gardens” the forest, as he puts it. But he gardens for people who will not be born for hundreds of years. So that there will be fine resonance spruce in the 24th Century.
The question is – are they long? or long enough? or longer than the other ones? And are the leaves first? or the blossom? Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy explains how it’s not always easy to tell the haw- from the black- when it comes to thorns.
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.
The locavore and livable cites movements have found common cause in Seattle, according to TakePart:
Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.
“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.