Archive for the 'Trees' Category

Dec 26 2015

From A Different Angle

Bare trees from a new angle (photo by Kate St. John)

Bare trees from a different angle (photo by Kate St. John)

When my camera couldn’t capture this horizontally, I turned it sideways to photograph the trees.

I like them this way better than in the “normal”orientation.

Put your left ear on your left shoulder to see what I mean.

 

p.s. I took this photo four years ago but didn’t label it.  Based on their bark I think these are sugar maples … but their branches don’t look right.

(photo by Kate St. John)

4 responses so far

Dec 06 2015

Now’s The Time To Look For…

Hemlock wooly adelgid (photo courtesy Sarah Johnson, The Nature Conservancy)

Hemlock wooly adelgid (photo courtesy Sarah Johnson, The Nature Conservancy)

Last week Sarah Johnson at The Nature Conservancy reminded me that early November to late March is the time of year to be on the lookout for hemlock wooly adelgid.

The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania DCNR, and the US Forest Service are tracking the advance of hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) in hemlock conservation areas and the High Allegheny Plateau of northwestern PA and western NY.  They need your help.

Hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), originally from Japan, kills eastern hemlocks in 4-20 years by sucking the lifeblood out of them.  A hemlock with an adelgid infestation like the one above is doomed.

By knowing where HWA has newly arrived, the survey may be able to treat key trees until a winter-hardy biological agent is ready.

So if you’re out birding in Pennsylvania’s north woods(*) and you see these white wooly balls at the base of needles on the undersides of hemlock branches, it’s the dreaded adelgids.  Note your location and contact one of the folks on this list.  Do NOT take a sample.

If you’d like to participate in the official survey, call or send email to Sarah Johnson at sejohnson@tnc.org, 717-232-6001 Ext 231.

 

(photo of hemlock wooly adelgid courtesy Sarah Johnson, The Nature Conservancy)

(*) The survey location runs from Cook Forest to New York’s Allegany State Park.

3 responses so far

Nov 28 2015

Anyone Home?

Published by under Musings & News,Trees

Anyone home? (photo by Kate St. John)

Hole in a sugar maple in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

When I see a hole like this I wonder if an animal is inside.

In the winter it could be sheltering chickadees or tufted titmice.  If it’s big enough it may hold a squirrel … or something even better.

When you’re in the woods on a cold sunny afternoon, look for tree holes.  You might see an owl peeking out of one.

Anyone home?

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

2 responses so far

Nov 06 2015

What Happens At A Clearcut?

Tree removal project at Central Catholic, 30 Oct 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Before I retired from WQED in September 2014, this was the view outside my window … except there were trees.

Last month contractors removed all the trees on the hillside between CMU’s new Tepper Quad and Central Catholic’s football field.  By the time I saw it a week ago it looked like this.

Hillside denuded by tree removal project at Central Catholic, 30 Oct 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

To give you an idea of what it used to look like, here’s a view of the remaining trees behind WQED.

Trees remaining on hillside behind WQED, 30 Oct 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

In the grand scheme of things this was a small woodlot surrounded by parking lots and an astroturf field, host to many invasive species.

Does it matter that humans removed this small landscape?

It does to the animals who lived there.

In the remaining woodlot behind WQED two squirrels fought a territorial battle. The loud one said, “This is mine! You have to leave!” The other cowered but stayed nearby. Probably a refugee.

Winter or a predator will determine who survives.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Does anyone know whose project this is (CMU or Central Catholic?) and why it was done?

UPDATE:  I haven’t been back to the site for a week but friends confirm that this is a CMU project and that all the trees are gone now.  Every single one.

7 responses so far

Oct 06 2015

Food For The Extinct

The "monkey ball" fruit of the Osage Orange tree (photo from Architect of the Capitol via Wikimedia Commons)

The “monkey ball” fruit of the Osage Orange tree (photo from Architect of the Capitol via Wikimedia Commons)

Why is the Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) “monkey ball” such a prolific fruit when almost nothing eats it?

Why is the avocado seed so large?  (Persea americana)

Open avocado showing huge seed (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Open avocado showing huge seed (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Why does the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) have huge thorns on its trunk?  And…

Honeylocust thorns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Honeylocust thorns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

… large seed pods that no one eats?

Honey locust seed pod (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Honey locust seed pod (photo by Andrew Dunn from Wikimedia Commons)

These fruits are food for giants that are now extinct.

Just 13,000 years ago the Americas were inhabited by mammoths, horses and giant ground sloths whose diet included “monkey balls,” avocados and honey locust pods.  Only a giant could eat such large fruit in one gulp and pass the seeds through its digestive track.

The giant ground sloth (Megatherium) for instance weighed 4 tons (8,000 pounds) and could reach 20 feet up when he put his paw on a tree trunk and stood on his hind legs.  He could also damage the trees so the honey locust evolved big thorns for protection.

Megatherium, extinct ground sloth (illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

Megatherium, extinct ground sloth (illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

He’s been extinct for 10,000 years, but the tree remembers.

 

For a fun 5-minute video about the fruits that point to missing mammals, watch below.

 

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on each image to see its original)


Notes and links:

2 responses so far

Sep 13 2015

This Tree Is Stepping Out

Published by under Trees

A white pine with a "knee" root (photo by Kate St. John)

White pine with an arched root (photo by Kate St. John)

While hiking the Asticou & Jordon Pond Path at Acadia National Park, my husband and I encountered an unusual tree.

This white pine used to grow on top of something that disappeared, perhaps a decaying log.  The main stem looks solid but I’m sure the tree needs the “h” for support.

Do you know the name of this root formation?

 

p.s.  I ask because I don’t know what to call it.  A “knee” is a root that emerges from the ground near the trunk but is not attached to it — as in cypress knees.  This root is different from a cypress knee.

(photo by Kate St. John)

3 responses so far

Aug 23 2015

The Tuliptrees Respond

Published by under Trees

Tuliptree responds to anthracnose by growing new leaves, August 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Tuliptree responds to anthracnose by growing new leaves, August 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

In June’s wet weather, Pittsburgh’s tuliptrees were attacked by anthracnose, a fungus that turned most of their leaves brown.  Click here to see.

July and August were very dry so the fungus died.

The tuliptrees responded.  They’ve grown new leaves!  It doesn’t matter that August is so close to autumn.  They need leaves to make food.

Photosynthesis is restored.

 

p.s.  The first time I saw trees grow new leaves in the fall was after Hurricane Bob stripped the leaves from the trees on Cape Cod on August 19, 1991.  It was very odd to see spring-like trees on the Cape in early October.

(photo by Kate St. John)

One response so far

Aug 05 2015

Smells Like Vanilla

Published by under Travel,Trees

Ponderosa pine: a look at the bark (photo by Donna Memon)

Ponderosa pine bark — photo by Donna Memon

Did you know you can recognize this tree by the smell of its bark?

After the Southwest Wings Festival I visited with Donna and Razzak Memon in Tuscon, Arizona.  On Monday Donna and I went birding on top of Mount Lemmon, one of the few mountains named for a woman (Sara Plummer Lemmon).

The summit is 9,159 feet above sea level and 6,770 feet above Tucson so the air is thinner and cooler, a welcome change from the valley’s heat.  That day it was 72oF on the mountain, 104oF in the valley.  Because of the thin mountain air we learned something about this tree.  

Donna and I were heading downhill when a group of hikers paused near the tree to catch their breath and I overheard one of them say it smelled like vanilla.  On our way back up the thin air hit me at the same spot so I paused and sniffed the bark.  Yes, the bark smells like vanilla.

The Ponderosa pine (on Mount Lemmon*) is one of the few trees you can identify this way.  When the tree is young the bark is black, but when it reaches 100-120 years old it sheds the black and shows a yellow bark that smells like vanilla or butterscotch or baking cookies, depending your point of view.

The unusual bark is also a fire shield.  According to this NPR report, when fire hits the tree it flash-boils the sap and blows the bark off the tree, but the tree doesn’t burn.

Ponderosa pine on Mt Lemmon, Arizona (photo by Donna Memon)

Ponderosa pine on Mt Lemmon, Arizona (photo by Donna Memon)

In the top photo you can see some snags at left that died in a fire on the mountain.

But not this one.  Its vanilla-scented bark protects it.

 

p.s.  Here we are at the top of the mountain.  You can see Tucson in the valley below.

Kate St. John and Donna Memon at Mount Lemmon, AZ (photo by Razzak Memon)

Kate St. John and Donna Memon at Mount Lemmon, AZ (photo by Razzak Memon)

(tree photos by Donna Memon; Kate & Donna photo by Razzak Memon; information about Ponderosas from this 2009 NPR article)

(*) In the comments below Nickie explains that in California Jeffrey pines smell like vanilla but Ponderosas do not. However the Jeffrey pine doesn’t grow in Arizona. In Arizona the Ponderosa (and/or the Arizona species/ subspecies) does.

2 responses so far

May 12 2015

Color Coded For Bees

Published by under Schenley Park,Trees

Horse Chestnut flowers, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

A close look at horse chestnut flowers (photo by Kate St. John)

This week the horse chestnut trees are in full bloom in Schenley Park.

Common horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are native to southeastern Europe but are planted widely in the U.S. for their beauty and shade.  Their flowers are dramatic in 10″ tall clusters and their large leaves with seven leaflets provide lots of shade.
Horse Chestnut tower of flowers, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Up close, the ornate white flowers have spots in either yellow or pinkish-red.  There’s a purpose behind the beauty.

When the flower is unfertilized the spot inside is yellow.  After pollination the spot turns reddish to tell the bees, “Don’t waste your time on me.”

The flowers are color coded for the bees.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

6 responses so far

Mar 18 2015

Listening To The Secret Sounds Of Trees

Woman listening with headphones (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In early May when the trees leaf out we’ll once again hear the soothing sound of rustling leaves.  Did you know trees make sounds we cannot hear?

Last year an article by Sarah Zhang in Gizmodo caught my attention.  Eavesdropping On The Secret Sounds Of Trees describes the art and science of a Swiss research team who’s recording the internal sounds of trees.

The project, fittingly called trees, attaches sensitive microphones to trunks, branches and even leaves, then records the sounds and analyzes them in light of simultaneous environmental factors such as drought.  Click here and scroll down to hear the clicks, pops, hisses and taps made by a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

Closer to home our trees are getting ready for spring, the sap is running, and it’s maple sugaring time in North America.

Maple sugar bucket hanging on a tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

And so I wonder …

If we had those special microphones could we heard the sap rising in the maples?  Or is it so loud that we can hear it by putting our ears to the trees?

I’ll have to see.

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the originals)

No responses yet

Next »