Not What You Might Think

We walked the dog this morning at a temperature of – 6 degrees F. The only one smiling was the dog. Most trees we see along the path are deciduous, dormant, and leafless, waiting for spring. Hats off to evergreens that live through the roller coaster winters on the Northern Plains.

A common ornamental evergreen adapted to this region is the Black Hills spruce. It is native to the Black Hills and is known for its dense foliage and blue-green needles. Some harvest the younger spruces for Christmas trees with their woodsy aroma. 

Eastern White pine is an ornamental evergreen in this region. Like the young tree pictured here, it may have a scruffy, slightly misshapen appearance as it matures. This one with fencing continues to be excluded from tree rubbing by deer. 

White pines were a historic timber staple in the Northeastern United States and west, including Michigan, until lumbering and disease took toles. They are widely valued as ornamental trees by foresters such as John Ball of South Dakota State University and Bob Leverett of Massachusetts. Ball looks for outstanding specimen trees in the region and remarks on a white pine specimen in Vermillion. Ball’s field guide Trees! is a resource. Ball and Leverett convey deep appreciation of trees such as white pines and others. 

Bob Leverett is an advocate for preserving older forests for many reasons. One is their potential for mitigating the effects of climate change. He has published data to show that older trees accumulate more carbon later in life. Trees such as white pine accumulate 75% of their total carbon after 50 years old. White pines capture more carbon between 100 years of age and 150 than in their first 50 years. If older forests were allowed to grow, they would help offset fossil fuel emissions.

Leverette realized that field-measuring trees to determine age needed refinement. He uses a “sine” method to more accurately approximate trees’ height, limb, and crown volume. Part of preserving older trees is accurately estimating their age and size. Leverette helped co-found the Native Tree Society to standardize the search for the biggest tree of a species.

Leverette identified the oldest white pines in a state forest in Massachusetts and named them “Trees of Peace.” He said that we have a duty to protect the old-growth forest for its beauty and importance to the planet. He wants people to experience an old-growth forest and know what they see. An article in the January/February 2022 Smithsonian magazine conveys Leverett’s story.

Thanks for visiting Plant Exchange Blog today. Stay warm!

One thought on “Not What You Might Think

  1. Spruce of all sorts happen to be compatible with the style of the landscapes here at work. However, our landscapes are not typical of the region, and none of the spruce are common. We added some Sitka spruce, but only because someone brought them back from near the Oregon Border. Unfortunately, I suspect that some spruce are uncommon here because they dislike the climate. There are a few blue spruce about, but they do not perform like they do elsewhere.

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