Feb 15 2010


Published by at 7:15 am under Mammals

About to fall (photo by Kate St. John)Put on your detective hat.  It's time to solve a minor mystery.

First the clues, then the quiz.

The clues:  I took this picture during the last four weeks in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

The quiz: 

  • What happened to this tree and who did it?
  • What land feature is this tree near?
  • How long do you think it took to get the tree into this condition?
  • What kind of tree is it?
  • Will the tree fall?
  • If the tree falls will anyone get hurt?
  • Approximately when in the last four weeks did I take this picture?
  • Can you guess where this is?

Click the photo for the answers or, rather, my best guesses at them.

(photo by Kate St. John)


7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Evidence”

  1. Mary Ann Pikeon 15 Feb 2010 at 8:58 am

    Looks like a beaver started to take the tree down…so it must be near a creek or some body of water. I don’t know how long it takes for a beaver to do this much damage to a tree. I’m not really good at tree bark identification…I’m trying to learn, but it’s taking me a while. I’ll guess oak. I would think the tree will come down eventually in a wind storm, but it might take a while, since it looks like there is still undamaged bark on one side, and that side of the tree will still be alive, and the part that’s damaged won’t dry out for a while. This was obviously taken before February 5th, and could have been taken almost anywhere, given the number of creeks and rivers we have in the area.

    I saw my first beaver-damaged tree in December along Chartiers creek in Boyce Mayview park. I didn’t know that we had any beavers near the park, but along the trail there was one tree that looked like the one above and another that was taken completely down. Then I notice split plastic pipe around the trunks of some other trees in the area, so I guess they’ve had beaver problems there for a while and were trying to protect some of the more unusual trees.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 15 Feb 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Right you are! Aren’t beavers amazing!

  3. Marcy Con 15 Feb 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Looks like a beaver to me too….at our old place they actually chewed and felled hemlock and maple trees…they were up to 8 inches round…my first time I ever saw damage like this and it was just up the road near the lake that was above our former home..I sure don’t know how they dragged the trees but they chewed them into pieces about 2-3 feet long, so there there sharp ends on both sides…really cool to see up close, but not the damage to the hemlocks, which were few, compared to the maple trees…beavers were trapped and I haven’t been back for years to see if they came back..

  4. Barb Simonon 16 Feb 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Kate – for the tree to be Ash – and I’m talking Ash in general – I don’t know one ash tree from another – the twigs have to be OPPOSITE – and there are some branches on the ground and if you peer very closely at them you can see that the little twigs go both left and right from the same point on the branch. Now the smaller tree immediately behind our chewed tree has a smoother gray bark and that really looks like Maple to me. Maples are also OPPOSITE in their twig arrangements, but ASH is FAMOUS (among field botanists anyway) for its raised bark diamond shaped patterns. Look carefully at the bark and note the open diamond shapes. So, a tree with opposite twigs and raised diamond bark patterns is ASH rather than maple. Walnut, hickory and other nut trees also have diamond patterns, but the diamonds are tight and very narrow – much taller than they are wide- and those trees are not opposite.

    Only a small group of trees and shrubs are opposite and if you can remember a cool little phrase, it will help you identify these groups in a hurry. The phrase is MADCAP Horse. MADCAP Horse stands for Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Caprifoliaciea and Horse Chestnut. All maple, Ash and Dogwood Trees are Opposite – they have twigs exactly opposite each other off of a main stem. Caprifoliaciea is the group of shrubs known as vibernum that look like snowball bushes. Then Horse chestnut and members of its family (Castanea). Also a few exceptions to this rule seem to be Lilac and other members of its Olivacea family and Philadelphus (Mock Orange).

  5. Kate St. Johnon 16 Feb 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the info. I took a tree identification course many years ago & learned the MADDOG incantation (my teacher taught MADDOG instead of MADCAP).

    True confessions: I did look at the tree limbs, though only from far away because it looked dangerous. I remembered them being opposite but I didn’t write down my decision on the tree’s identity. When I got around to writing the blog almost four weeks later all I could remember was, “It was either a maple or ash.” (i.e. opposite branches). At that point all I had was bark to look at in a not very good photo. I could tell the little tree in the background was a maple but I was not sure of the gnawed tree & really didn’t want to be wrong in public so I asked Chuck for confirmation.

    I couldn’t write all of this down because it was too large to fit into my “answer” window. 😉

  6. Dave Sobalon 20 Feb 2010 at 6:41 am

    Kate- A few years ago we had beavers taking down apple trees and some plantings outside of the Science Center. I have not seen any recent evidence here or downstream for a while though. I never did locate the lodge, but admit I did not look that hard.

  7. cory desteinon 28 Feb 2010 at 10:07 pm

    This is amazing at all the places people report beavers. I never expected to be as wide spread through Pittsburgh as they are!

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