Thursday, April 12, 2007

an understory story

It is a natural thing for the naturalist/artist to be constantly looking for patterns. I had expected that I would find patterns to the freeze damage, such as "trees on the north slopes suffered worse" or "the canopy protected the younger trees in the understory, or all hickorys lost all leaves" . But after lots of hiking around on various slopes, around bodies of water and near buildings, I could neither determine any patterns, nor find any logical explanation(s) for the degree and severity of the damage.
It was even more puzzling when I spent tuesday night in Nashville. I expected that in the big city, there would be more trees spared the total loss of leaves and flowers, both because of the heat of the city, but also because geographically, Nashville is in a slightly warmer zone than home. I was surprised to find as much damage as I did, and its seemingly random nature.
I could not honestly attribute any sort of cause and effect, such as a certain tree being spared because of it's proximity to a building or it being sheltered by a heavy overstory, or it being located close to a creek, out in the open or sheltered from the wind. There did not seem to be a pattern either, nor association with the overall health of the individual tree. Puzzling over it, I am beginning to believe that perhaps it had to do more with the individual genetic makeup or overall constitution of the tree. I have not a pretty picture to illustrate this, so I will post a picture of these hickory trees and the young maple in the understory taken a few days before the cold. They are all black now, with the leaves a drooping, but next spring, perhaps they will look like this again.


Bill April 12, 2007 at 9:01 PM  

Oh hi Cady May. There is no pattern here, because there is no green as I wrote in my previous comment, if that is what you are looking for to determine severity of the frost toll. Now that things are so brown any green should really start standing out. Our hickory were leafed pretty far out as well and they were the most obvious casualty the night after the first frost. I just wanted to add that I did see a pair of meadowlarks from the high way, but couldn't detect any where I usually here them by Wal-Mart. The pair I saw were sitting on wire fence, couldn't hear if they were singing. A perfectly normal sight, but I have to wonder about them. I should walk through a field tomorrow and hopefully find insects stirring.

I talked to a friend who said he expected a lot of trees to die. My wife heard talk up in St. Louis about having leaves again sometime in June.

Cady May April 12, 2007 at 9:28 PM  

Was the talk your wife heard speculation, or a dendrologists estimate of some sort? Im curious, because as hard to believ as it is, I already saw little new leaves coming out below the dead ones on some young will be interesting to see how long the process takes. Also, why would the trees die? limbs maybe, and maybe some that were already stressed from disease, but trees are pretty resilient. We're gonna have to see, I hope for the best!

Bill April 12, 2007 at 10:59 PM  

Yes we are already in an ongoing white oak die-off, due to wood borers etc. Long term drought has exacerbated this. I dry spots nearby sections of oak forest went dormant in sometime in August if memory serves.

Love your good attitude. Thanks for the reporting.

Oh what my wife heard. Workplace chat probably based on TV news.

Yes some maples do seems to be retaining or just producing fresh green leaves, or at least ones that aren't brown. I have been very housebound and my curiousity is really piqued. I'll have to take a tour through woods and field in the morning. Last spring I had an accident damaging my eyesight and I have been really bummed that the birds would never be there for my again like they had--well this turns that whole situation on its head if there are no birds to be seen in the first place. We have been here for 12 years. Our neighbors have told us of a time in years ago, maybe the early eighties when there just weren't any songbirds. Talking to a friend in town it came out that there was a big snow in late April in the early eighties.

Thanks again Cady May.

Bill April 13, 2007 at 4:32 AM  

Sorry about all the comments, Cady May--I've just been thinking of all the migrants I'd seen last year by Easter: Baltimore Orioles; Magnolia Warbler; Chestnut-sided Warbler--those I distincly remember as being before Good Friday. Maybe I have not been paying attention, or making too much noise but as I said before I had not heard or seen many migrants this spring. It seems likely to me now that lots of warbler were probably here last year at the end of the first week in April, such as yellowthroats; prairie,blue-winged--hmm.
I think the day befor the frost hit I heard a whip-or-will, but it was just one call taking me by surprise and I couldn't confirm it, it's a good thing the goatsuckers weren't here.

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