September 24, 2018

Is it Scouler's or Sitka?

Two species of willow that pose considerable difficulty in differentiating are Scouler's and Sitka willow. Both have similar growth habits, bark and leaf morphology. They also often share habitat. Scouler's tolerates dryer conditions than Sitka, which likes wetlands. But Sitka can be found at higher elevations, and Scouler's can be fond in wetlands. Whew!

Add to this the times of year both bloom. Sitka blooms from March to April. Scouler's blooms in February. Fair enough. But what about some years where things are early or late?

Here's what might help if you are looking at trees after the leaves mature. Sitka leaves have small red hairs on their under side. So do Scouler's. But! Scouler's looses most of the hairs as the leaf matures, except for along the veins.

I know, not the easiest way to distinguish these two species, but at least we have this one tool.

Source: http://web.pdx.edu/~maserj/ESR410/Salixsitchensis.html

Posted on September 24, 2018 03:11 by kurtsteinbach kurtsteinbach | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 01, 2017

The Big Fire

Somewhere in the not too distant past, there was a huge forest fire that consumed most of this island. There are old growth firs that still bear the char deep in the fissured corky bark. When building my orchard and doing any kind of excavation, I frequently run into charcoal, sometimes a foot or so deep down. Finding it so deep isn't especially surprising, since the entire area of some 80 acres was logged in the 1960's, slash stacked in great piles that were never lit, and the land bladed smooth to create cattle pasture. Much soil was moved around in the process. There are still snags and downed logs that show deep charring; those that haven't rotted are buried in the peat, or they are cedar. Some of the old cedar fence posts are charred along just one side, suggesting the rancher split the fire-felled logs for the fence line.

Yesterday while performing an annual ritual of digging a foot or two of peat accumulation out an area of pond, I found scorched clay. This is interesting, because it tells me the pond level was low enough for the heat of the forest fire to partially "fire" the soil - in the potters sense of the word. Pond levels fluctuate with rainfall, which means in Washington, with the seasons. It hadn't considered this before, but because fires need dry fuel, and our annual fire danger season is generally August through September, I think I can now safely assume the fire occurred when the ponds were seasonally low, or around this time of year. I'm still in the dark what year this great fire occurred. I have sent an inquiry off to the county historical society to request any information they might have on record.

Posted on October 01, 2017 02:57 by kurtsteinbach kurtsteinbach | 1 comments | Leave a comment

September 09, 2017

Red Alder Sacrifice

The extended seasonal summer drought causes many of our deciduous tree species to drop leaves as early as mid July to late August. It seems to be a strategy for limiting transpiration via their foliage. The Red Alder in particular employs this strategy, even to the extent of sacrificing whole limbs. Alders around and near the ponds, which one would think are better hydrated, have lower limbs that have died over the summer. Upper limbs seem to not be given up for the sake of the whole organism's survival, as the lower limbs are. I posit lower limbs are of lesser value to the tree, and thereby not as great a sacrifice as the upper, higher value photosynthesizing limb's leaves are. No other tree species that have dropped their leaves early, seem to have lower limb die-back. It appears to be a strategy unique to the Red Alder.

Posted on September 09, 2017 22:19 by kurtsteinbach kurtsteinbach | 1 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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