Outdoors Magazine

Visiting an Old Tree Friend

Posted on the 12 July 2017 by Hollis
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
Five years ago, I came across a blog post about a young sycamore (maple in the USA) emerging from a street drain! It was discovered by Lucy Corrander, a member of a loose-knit group of tree-followers. Lucy informally “led” the group by periodically listing recent tree-following posts. Anticipating tree camaraderie, I decided to follow a limber pine (Pinus flexilis). Like Lucy’s sycamore, it started life in a dark out-of-the-way place—a five-foot-deep crevice in a granite outcrop. That must have been many hundreds of years ago, judging by its situation and size.

Visiting an Old Tree Friend

Sycamore (maple) emerging from its dark wet home in 2012. Lucy reports it’s still growing there!

Visiting an Old Tree Friend

Limber pine emerging from a granite crevice near Blair Picnic Area in the southern Laramie Mountains.

There were enough tree-followers that Lucy organized monthly gatherings facilitated by Mister Linky, now hosted by The Squirrelbasket. In the years since, I’ve followed a cottonwood, a willow and a serviceberry—always interesting and fun.

Visiting an Old Tree Friend

Consider joining us!

Though there’s no obligation, I’ve mostly been diligent in my monthly reporting … until this year. That’s because I decided to follow a Powell palmetto, which has been extinct for millions of years. The beautiful fossilized frond in a hallway in the Geology building was irresistible. But I soon ran out of palm and fossil stories, and work and weather have kept me from visiting its lithified habitat on the other side of Wyoming. In the meantime, I’ve wandered from tree to tree. This month I visited my old friend, the limber pine.
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
From the approach, it hardly looks impressive—half dead and leaning severely. But up close, it’s spectacular! What character!! I like to look at the big scarred tree leaning against the rock and imagine its early years, back when it was a slender youngster living down where the sun rarely shone and snow melted late each spring. It couldn’t have grown more than a minuscule amount each year!
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
When the sapling reached the rim of the crevice, did it experience a growth spurt? Maybe relatively-speaking. The growing season is short (8000 feet elevation), though being evergreen, a limber pine will photosynthesize in winter if there's a “warm” day.Surely the Wyoming wind blew the supple young tree against the rock on a regular basis. Maybe that’s why there’s a large bark-less scar where it meets the crevice rim …
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
… or maybe not. On the other side, the bark joins tightly with the granite.
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
In addition to the scar at the rim, strips bare of bark wind up the trunk. Several large roots are exposed and vulnerable, if not already dead. A good portion of the crown is dead. But the remaining live branches are healthy, their branchlets thick with needles.
Visiting an Old Tree Friend

Visiting an Old Tree Friend

The limber pine looks healthiest viewed from above.

As for change … there were some obvious ones. Several minor branches covered in green needles five years ago are now brown.
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
Five years ago my field assistant was Sparky, who was always happy to pose when I pulled out the camera. Now Spark is gone, replaced by Emmie, who still hasn’t figured out what a camera’s for, even after three years of fieldwork.
Visiting an Old Tree Friend
And those aches and pains I felt scrambling up to visit the tree this year, were they around five years ago? Hmmm. You know, I don’t remember …
Visiting an Old Tree Friend

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