Posts Tagged 'trees'

Signs and Meanings

SalixHamamelisEranthis hyemalisSturnus vulgaris“‘You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.'” ~ A.C. Doyle.


Pinus palustrisI’m becoming obsessed with Pinus palustris, the longleaf pine that once covered 92 million acres of the southeast from Maryland to Texas, but now exists in only a handful of preserves. I’ve not seen it in its natural state, only as old lumber repurposed. That’s a piece of it above, one of the benches at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I wrote about the strange coincidence of that wood being in my neighborhood for Humans & Nature. Here, with more pictures, are a couple of things I wrote when the picnic tables were new (again): Grain of the Universe and Against the grain.
UnknownA friend lent me her copy of Longleaf As Far as the Eye Can See where I learned much more about the trees and their world. Longleaf savannah is some of the richest habitat in the world: one survey at Fort Bragg (vast military bases have preserved the habitat, first by default and now by recognition that they couldn’t have a better place as a training ground) found 500 species of flowering plants per square kilometer. A square meter may hold 50-60 species. Some 30 genera are endemic to longleaf forests, which are really meadows, savannas, prairies. In comparison, the entire Appalachian province, with all its magnificence of trees and wildflowers, supports a (known) total of 2 endemic genera.

This longleaf savannah woodland is an evolutionary adaptation to fire — the region has some of the highest concentration of thunderstorms. The trees can grow for centuries, through firestorm after firestorm (since long before indigenous Americans used fire as their preeminent technology). They do not grow as massively as hardwoods, though: one profiled tree, for instance, nearing its 400th year, has a diameter of 14″. And it is still growing: according to the tale of its rings, it put on more girth between 1917-37 than it had in its previous hundred. These are trees that just get into their stride after a century or more.

It’s the older trees that have red heart fungus, which softens the heartwood. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers favor these for their cavity nests, which take a while to make and which they re-use. The destruction of over 95% of the wooded savannah has consequently meant these birds are on the Endangered Species List. Another fascinating connection is the high incidence of carnivorous plant species that make their home in bogs within the longleafs. “There are few other places on earth where so many plants have, in so many wonderful and diverse ways, restorted to the consumption of meat.”

All Trees Edition

Betula nigraRiver Birch (Betula nigra), young above and middle-aged below, if I’m not mistaken.Betula nigra

Populus deltoidesThe giant old Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) between the two bridges.IMG_0115Bud on ice. Waiting, waiting…CatalpaA trio of Catalpa trees, prime Two-Spotted Ladybug habitat.The Kentucky Coffee trees on the right, however, don’t inspire the aphids the ladybugs eat.CatalpaCatalpa pods.

Vertical Canyonlands

Celtis occidentalisThe distinctive basin and range topography of Northern Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) bark. Layers of the bark’s growth can be seen, looking like layers of sediment, to continue the geological analogy. Hackberries were once classified in the Ulmaceae, or elm, family but are now considered to be a member of the Cannabaceae, or hemp family. Yes, that’s the one with the black sheep Cannabis genus, along with the blessed deliverer of bitterness, the hops Humulus.


Acer saccharinumOur wet days and autumnal leaves are ideal for making for a lot of sidewalk prints. The Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) leaf above the Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) leaf below are both particularly good examples.Quercus palustris

A Good Walk

Quercus rubraA good walk in Prospect Park with Ken Chaya, who always adds immeasurably to my knowledge. This young Red Oak (Quercus rubra) was holding on to its youthfully large leaves.Taxodium distichumA particularly nice spread of “knees” of a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum). It was once thought that these projections from the roots were pneumatophores, helping the tree breath in the swampy habitat they are native to, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of this. Now the thought is that they are for stability and support.AccipiterThis looks like it came off one of the Accipiters. We did see a Cooper’s high over the Ravine. A single Swamp Sparrow and half a dozen Fox Sparrows were noted, as well as Goldfinches, Purple Finches, White-throated Sparrows, and the usual suspects. Hypsizygus tessulatusKen thought this was an Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus tessulatus). It was certainly high up on the tree, which is a characteristic of the fungi.Falco peregrinusOk, this Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) was some 2000 feet away, but still, it made for a falcon species trifecta over an 8-day week.


Liquidambar styracifluaA pod of the American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) on a recent bright day.swThese little nuggets came out the mouth-like openings of the pod, so I assumed they were the seeds. But I was wrong. Later, walking with tree-maven Ken Chaya, we knocked another pod. Liquidambar styracifluaThe winged seeds, or samaras, are seen here with more of the tiny nubby bits. What those nubby bits are, exactly, neither of us are yet sure.


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