24 April 2015

Distribution of trees in the United States

Technically this shows "above-ground woody biomass," but in practical terms it is a map of tree density.
Over six years, researchers assembled the national forest map from space-based radar, satellite sensors, computer models, and a massive amount of ground-based data. It is possibly the highest resolution and most detailed view of forest structure and carbon storage ever assembled for any country.

Forests in the U.S. were mapped down to a scale of 30 meters, or roughly 10 computer display pixels for every hectare of land (4 pixels per acre). They divided the country into 66 mapping zones and ended up mapping 265 million segments of the American land surface...
Posted at Neatorama by Miss Cellania, who found it at NASA's Earth Observatory (their Image of the Day page is well worth a bookmark).

p.s. - The embedded image enlarges with a click, but for maximum detail enlarge x2 the original at the NASA link.

(Reposted from 2012 for Arbor Day 2015) 

The "crooked forest" of Gryfino (Poland) - updated

The link for the embedded photo was sent to me by Jennifer Fox, with a request for an explanation, since her web search had not proved satisfactory.

Several possibilities come to mind.  It's obvious that the trees were bent when very young, then recovered.  Those who live near large lakes with prominent ice heaves will have seen trees affected in this manner, and a similiar effect could occur after a blowdown by straightline winds.

I get the sense that this forest is a tree farm, because of the uniformity of age of the trees, and I suspect this is a man-made curvature, because of the similarity of all the trees involved.  If that's true, then my best explanation would be that these trees were trained as "compass timbers" for shipbuilding or as material for other woodworking.  See this post from last fall on that subject.

This blog gets about 500 visits a month from readers in Poland; perhaps someone can offer a definitive answer.

Photo credit: tapenade.

Addendum January 2012.  One of the curious aspects of blogging is that you never know which posts will be popular or produce sustained interest.  I posted the above about a year ago, and it has continued to accumulate hits (40,000 so far!) and comments, so I thought a repost with an update was warranted.

One of the early comments included a link to Discovery News, with a map showing the location of this forest:

The bent trees are in a small suburban area, surrounded by normal trees (evident in some of the photos in the gallery at this link).

Re the etiology, my original postulate was that they were bent by humans for shipbuilding timbers or other woodworking.  Others chimed in with suggestions of "gravity anomalies," crop circles, the Tunguska Event (!!), "evil," and tank maneuvers.

I favor the later suggestion that the trees were intended to be used for furniture making in the "German Jugendstil style (1900/30), which is noted for its numerous curvilinear features."  Another reader offered a link to this photo of a sledge with curved wooden runners:

This post, for reasons not entirely clear to me, has over the years been one of the most-viewed entries in TYWKIWDBI, with something over 100,000 views.

(Reposted from 2012 for Arbor Day 2015)

Joshua tree

“Nothing the desert produces expresses it better than the unhappy growth of the tree yuccas. Tormented, thin forests of it stalk drearily in the high mesas, particularly in that triangular slip that fans out eastward from the meeting of the Sierras and coastwise hills where the first swings across the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. The yucca bristles with bayonet-pointed leavesdull green, growing shaggy with age, tipped with panicles of fetid, greenish bloom. After death, which is slow, the ghosty hollow network of its woody skeleton, with hardly power to rot makes the moonlight fearful...”
– Mary Austin on Joshua trees, from The Land of Little Rain, 1903. 
Found at Coyote Crossing, via Salmagundi and Uncertain Times

(Reposted from 2010 for Arbor Day 2015) 

The loneliest cycad ?

Excerpts from a story by Robert Krulwich at NPR:
One day in 1895, while walking through the Ngoya Forest in Zululand, southern Africa, a botanist with the oh so suitable name of John Medley Wood caught sight of a tree... Dr. Wood — who made his living collecting rare plants (he directed a botanical garden in Durban) had some of the stems pulled up, removed, and sent one of them to London...

The problem is, these trees cannot fertilize themselves. Some plants contain male and female parts on the same individual. Not E. woodii. It is, as the botanists say, dioecious. It needs a mate... But what if you can't find a mate? The tree in London (and its clones that are now growing in botanical gardens all over the world) is a male. It can make pollen. But it can't make the seeds. That requires a female.

Researchers have wandered the Ngoya forest and other woods of Africa, looking for an E. woodii that could pair with the one in London. They haven't found a single other specimen. They're still searching. ..

Hybrid cycads are sold at plant stores, but those plants aren't the real deal. The tree that sits in London can't produce a true offspring. It sits there, the last in its long line, waiting for a companion that may no longer exist.Unless a female exists somewhere, E. woodii will never mate with one of its own.
(Reposted from 2011 for Arbor Day 2015)


"Not only do we come in contact with it constantly in our daily lives, from cinnamon to cork to chewing gum to rubber, but it’s also a hauntingly beautiful, textured piece of living matter that looks like the skin of some magnificent mythical dragon. French photographer Cedric Pollet travels the world to capture this beauty and has documented it in his gorgeous new book, Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees.
This book is not in our library system; I'll bet it is well worth a read.  The embedded photos show the bark of the ocotillo tree, a Mindonoan gum, and a type of manzanita. My favorite bark is that of the river birch.

Text and photos from Brain Pickings, via Dark Roasted Blend.

(Reposted from 2011 for Arbor Day 2015) 

The ginkgo tree produces sperm. Motile sperm.

YouTube link. (another, briefer, video here).

You learn something every day.  I knew that the ginko is a most unusual tree - often described as a "living fossil" little unchanged from the Permian era.  I certainly didn't know that it produces motile sperm.  Here are some excerpts from an interesting article in Harvard Magazine:
[In 1896] in Tokyo, Japanese botanist Sakugoro Hirase peered through his microscope at the inside of a female ginkgo tree’s ovule. The previous spring, a male ginkgo’s pollen had wafted on the wind toward a female ginkgo with many dangling pairs of round ovules. On the tip of an ovule, a secreted drop of gooey fluid captured and absorbed the pollen into an interior pollen chamber. The pollen had grown all through the summer and, as Hirase was astounded to observe, it had become a multiflagellated ginkgo sperm (three times larger than human sperm) that was swimming to fertilize a waiting egg cell.

“This was really momentous,” according to Del Tredici. “The discovery of motile sperm captured people’s attention. From the scientific point of view, motile sperm was considered to be a trait associated with evolutionarily primitive, non-seed plants such as mosses and ferns. And yet here was the ginkgo tree—clearly a seed-producing plant—with its motile sperm that linked non-seed plants to the more evolutionarily advanced conifers and angiosperms with pollen tubes and non-motile sperm..."

It takes about 133 days for the ginkgo pollen to develop into sperm that then flails its way to the egg and creates a growing embryo. Soon thereafter, in the fall, the fleshy seeds, containing a hard-shelled nut with a tiny embryo, drop to the ground... And then there was the mystery of the stinky fruits. On that trip to China, he learned that local nocturnal scavengers and carnivores like Chinese leopard cats and the masked palm civet ate the ginkgo’s fruit. He hypothesized that the stinky flesh mimicked the smell of rotting meat, a successful strategy to attract these creatures. The ginkgo nuts, in turn, were eventually excreted...
Oh, and BTW...
The 2008 and 2009 studies, Del Tredici said, "showed no significant effect by ginkgo-leaf extract in patients suffering from dementia or memory problems.
(Reposted from 2011 for Arbor Day 2015)

Boojum tree

This photograph by Eliot Porter, entitled Cirio Near Las Tres Virgenes Volcano, Baja California (1966) is from the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I'm in a hurry today, so you'll have to read about the species on your own, at Wikipedia or The University of Arizona Arboretum.  (another pic here).

You can also go here, and find lots and lots of elsewheres to explore, some of which refer to these famous terminal verses from the eighth fit:
"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words, "It's a Boo-"

Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
A weary and wandering sigh
That sounded like "jum!" but the other declare
It was only a breeze that went by.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of this laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away-
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
And btw, despite the way it looks, the boojum in the photo is a tree - not a cactus.

Via A London Salmagundi.    (Reposted from 2012 for Arbor Day 2015) 

Camel thorn trees in Namibia

The above image (via BoingBoing), by Frans Lanting was published by National Geographic about five years ago, and ever since has been fooling viewers into thinking it's a painting, rather than a photograph.  The altered perspective of a telephoto lens positioning the trees against a sunset-illuminated giant sand dune is really quite  startling.  I had to search for a while to find a more prosaic view:

Credit Martin Heigan.  

Other images here and here.  The trees are sometimes described as being "petrified."  I doubt whether that's technically correct; they certainly are desiccated.

(Reposted from 2012 for Arbor Day 2015)  

This tree had to be killed in order to save it

Last week authorities in Japan cut down a pine tree at Rikuzentakata in a bid to preserve it. The tree had been part of a coastal forest, but was the only one left standing after last year's tsunami struck the country. It will be cut into sections, given anti-decay treatment, reassembled using a carbon spine, and replanted in the same spot. The whole process could take around six months.

When I read that description of this pine, I was reminded of the (in)famous quote from the Vietnam war.  I suppose I understand the logic behind the process - the tree is being preserved as a monument of an event rather than as a tribute to itself.  Still...

The photo, btw, comes from a stunning 16-photo gallery of the "world's most famous trees," among which I find the "Queen Elizabeth oak" quite striking (because of its shape rather than the legend):

Legend has it that the future Queen Elizabeth was sat under this tree, eating an apple, when she was told that her sister Mary had died, and she was the new monarch. The tree is found in the grounds of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.

Photo credits surprisingly not specified at the Telegraph link.

(Reposted from 2012 for Arbor Day 2015)  

Black tupelo

Nyssa sylvatica is cultivated as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, where it is often used as a specimen or shade tree. The tree is best when grown in sheltered but not crowded positions, developing a pyramidal shape in youth, and spreading with age. The stem rises to the summit of the tree in one tapering unbroken shaft, the branches come out at right angles to the trunk and either extend horizontally or droop a little, making a long-narrow, cone-like head. The leaves are short-petioled and so have little individual motion, but the branches sway as a whole... Its often spectacular autumnal coloring, with intense reds to purples, is highly valued in landscape settings. It is the most fiery and brilliant of the 'brilliant group' that includes maple, dogwood, sassafras, and sweet gum, as well as various species of tupelo.
Photographed yesterday at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.  I was late getting there this autumn and missed most of the great foliage, but this gum tree was still absolutely magnificent.

(Reposted from 2012 for Arbor Day 2015) 

Tropical trees

The skyscraping kapok’s yards-wide trunk, covered in wrinkled gray bark, rises and bends like a colossal elephant leg frozen midstep... Dutchman Dirk Groeneboer asks how old the kapok is. “We can’t determine the age,” says our guide, park ranger Hannah Madden... “There are no growth rings on tropical trees,” she adds, “because there are no seasons.”
I had never thought of that.  It would also affect the appearance of furniture, walls, artwork, and anything else made of such wood.

Addendum:  AM found a report published in Nature in 2006 indicating that xrays of tropical wood can reveal annular variations in calcium density that may be useful for estimating age of some types of wood.

(Reposted from 2013 for Arbor Day 2015) 

Puhala tree seed pod

Photo via Teachings of Reason and Radiolab, neither of which provide credit re the original photographer and source.  I think I tracked it to colleeninhawaii.

(Reposted from 2013 for Arbor Day 2015) 

The "urban forest" of Minneapolis

American Forests offers a list of "The Ten Best Cities for Urban Forests" in the United States.  Among them is my old stomping ground:
Minneapolis can now add the credential of having one of the top urban forests. The City of Lakes is home to an abundance of varied parkland — a park every six blocks — including those designed for off-road cycling and those for hiking, canoeing and swimming. Minneapolis’ tree canopy of 31 percent is only 6.5 percent shy of its potential canopy of 37.5 percent based on geographic information system (GIS) analysis and modeling. Minneapolis was actually one of the first cities to use the U.S. Forest Service’s iTree assessment tool to determine the benefits of its urban forest. Today, it’s estimated that the city’s urban forest has a structural value of $756 million and also reduces energy use by $216,000 per year.
The photo shows Minnehaha Creek above the falls, by zuluadams, via Stuff about Minneapolis.

(Reposted from 2013 for Arbor Day 2015) 

You can see why it's called a "bloodwood" tree

"The bloodwood tree (Pterocarpus angolensis) is a deciduous, spreading and slightly flat-crowned tree with a high canopy. It reaches about 15 metres in height and has dark bark. The bloodwood grows in warm areas in the northeast of Africa, extending into Zimbabwe, northern Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia. The red sap is used traditionally as a dye and in some areas mixed with animal fat to make a cosmetic for faces and bodies."
Source, via The Soul is Bone.

(Reposted from 2013 for Arbor Day 2015) 

"One could do worse than be a swinger of birches"

WHEN I see birches bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. 
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches;
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."
Here's a photo for those not familar with the effects of ice storms on birch trees -

- and a video of young boys swinging from birches (effectively ends at 1:40):

Frost video via The Dish.  Boldface and spaces in text added for clarity and emphasis.

(Reposted from 2013 for Arbor Day 2015) 
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