The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees – The Illustrated Edition Peter Wohlleben, Author, Jane Billinghurst, Translator Greystone Books Ltd.
The Hidden Life of Trees – The Illustrated Edition
Peter Wohlleben, Author,
Jane Billinghurst, Translator
Greystone Books Ltd.
Courtesy Greystone Books Ltd.
Occasionally, we run across a piece of art, music, or literature that we want to share with others. That isn’t always the case with beautiful scenery. Sometimes we want to keep that place as a private haven of serenity. And for good reasons.

Today, I will describe something that has opened my eyes to a world that few people know about. I refer to the research revealed in a book titled “The Hidden Life of Trees”, an International Bestseller, by Peter Wohlleben. He is a Forester-Scientist in Germany who has connected with others in his profession for over 20 years to reveal things about trees that most of us would never have expected. Here is Part One:

You may recall the basic photosynthesis functions related to the lives of trees. Roots carry water and minerals from the soil through the xylem tissues of the trunk up to the leaves. The leaves, with the help of chlorophyll, capture Sunlight Energy and Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere, and release Oxygen into the air. Sugars are also produced and go downward through the phloem tissues to the trunk and roots. The way I remembered this process in biology classes was that the X in xylem has its upper lines reaching skyward, and things Flow downhill.

The scientists knew that most individual trees of the same species growing in the same forest stand are connected to each other through their root systems. Nutrient exchanges revealed that forests are superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies. This indicated a sort of social system where trees will share food with their own species and sometimes even nourish their competitors. Why are they considered social beings? Because there are advantages in working together.

It seems that single trees, much like hermits, have greater difficulties in having a successful life. It can be done, but it’s tough. A single tree cannot establish a consistent local climate and must battle weather conditions. Whereas a forest often creates an ecosystem that can somewhat modify extreme temperatures, store a lot of water, and generate a lot of humidity. These kind of living conditions can provide trees with great longevity. But for this success the forest must remain intact. Tree removal, or fatalities, would result in gaps in the tree canopy, which would then allow for greater deviations in temperatures, make trees more vulnerable to uprooting from storms, and allow greater summer heat to dry out the forest floor. Every tree would then suffer.

Wohlleben continues to say that social connections can also be seen in the forest canopy. Most trees grow their branches out until they encounter the branch tips of a neighboring tree of the same height. Growth usually stops there because the air and better light in that space is already being used, and the trees don’t want to take anything away from each other.

But, as a rule, those planted in forests can live much like single wild trees and react by suffering from isolation. And remember that he is writing about forests, not single trees planted in a well-kept yard or for landscaping.

I’ll continue referencing “The Hidden Life of Trees” in future shows and talk about Why Forests are Green; How they act as a Water Pump, and are Carbon Dioxide Vacuums.

This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Greystone Books, LTD,
Lead Audio: Courtesy and Copyright
Text: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading

Wohlleben, Peter, The Hidden Life of Trees, Jane Billinghurst, Translator, Greystone Books Ltd., 2016, https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Life-Trees-Illustrated/dp/177164348X

Wohlleben, Peter, The Hidden Life of Trees – The Illustrated Edition, Jane Billinghurst, Translator, Greystone Books Ltd. 2018, https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Life-Trees-Illustrated/dp/177164348X

Noe, Alva, A Web Of Trees And Their ‘Hidden’ Lives, National Public Radio, September 23, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/09/23/494989594/a-web-of-trees-and-their-hidden-lives

Kuhns, Michael, https://upcolorado.com/utah-state-university-press/item/2130-a-guide-to-the-trees-of-utah-and-the-intermountain-west

Little, Elbert L, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees–W: Western Region, Chanticleer Press https://www.amazon.com/National-Audubon-Society-American-Trees-W/dp/0394507614 alternatively https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/119974/national-audubon-society-field-guide-to-north-american-trees–w-by-national-audubon-society/

Watts, Tom & Bridget, Rocky Mountain Tree Finder, Nature Study Guild, Menasha Ridge Press, Birmingham, AL https://www.amazon.com/Rocky-Mountain-Tree-Finder-Watts/dp/0912550295 alternatively
https://www.menasharidge.com/product.php?productid=17125

What Tree Is That, A Guide to More Common Trees Found in North America, The Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE, https://www.amazon.com/What-Tree-That-America-Recipient/dp/0963465759 alternatively https://www.arborday.org/trees/whattree/whatTree.cfm?ItemID=E6A

Tree Identification Index, USU Extension Forestry, https://forestry.usu.edu/tree-identification/index

Kuhns, Michael, Rupp, Lawrence, Selecting and Planting Landscape Trees, USU Extension Forestry, https://forestry.usu.edu/files/selecting-and-planting-landscape-trees.pdf

Key To The Trees Of Logan Canyon, USU Extension Forestry, https://forestry.usu.edu/tree-identification/keys-to-trees-of-logan/keys-to-trees-of-logan-canyon

Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation: Pando, the worlds largest known organism at Fishlake in central Utah Image courtesy USDA Forest Service J Zapell, Photographer
Pando, the worlds largest known organism at Fishlake in central Utah
Image courtesy USDA Forest Service
J Zapell, Photographer
There are some people who think that trees are merely green things that stand in their way. And there are some people who believe that life should be lived to its fullest without regards to future generations, or even their neighbors. They are mostly concerned with the Rule of Threes, which basically means a person can survive for 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. They take care of their own needs.

But consider the words of a philosophy generally attributed to the Native American Iroquois Confederacy dated around 1500 AD: That decisions we make regarding resources today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. If you prefer, you can consider how the modern United Nations describes sustainable development which is: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Here is a short list of 12 things you can do to help protect our resources for the future:

    1. Conserve energy inside your home in winter by turning down the heat and dressing warmer indoors. In summer, close the window blinds facing direct sunlight. (Utah Clean Energy)
    2. Walk wherever possible for good health and saving fuels. ()
    3. Last year Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles. Fill reusable water bottles at home and take it with you. Most of the bottled water today is filtered tap water. (Mathematics for Sustainability: Fall 2017)
    4. Turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms. That means in your homes, schools, churches and work places. (When to Turn Off Your Lights (US Dept of Energy))
    5. Try using things more than once. Padded envelopes are just one example. (US EPA: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
    6. Reduce landfill waste. The average American uses 350 bags each year. Instead of plastic or paper, use strong canvas or cloth bags which can be reused for many years. (15 Easy Ways To Reduce Landfill Waste)
    7. Contact the companies that send junk mail to your home and discontinue those mailings. Or you’ll have extra papers to recycle…with your name and address on them. (National Do Not Mail List)
    8. If your community doesn’t recycle, find local retailers who will take used oil, batteries, ink cartridges, and light bulbs. Don’t throw them into the trash. (Logan City Recycling)
    9. Plant trees wherever you can. They help wildlife, help purify the air, protect the soil, and provide shade in hot summer months. (Everyone Can Plant a Tree and Help Fight Climate Change (Arbor Day Foundation))
    10. Plant nectar gardens for our declining species of butterflies and bees. Their health and success directly affects our food supplies. (5 Spring Plants That Could Save Monarch Butterflies)
    11. Never throw waste products into our streams, rivers, lakes or oceans. (Utah Clean Water Partnership)
    12. Learn how to compost your food waste into usable soils for the future. (USU Extension Hosting)

This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service J Zapell, Photographer
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text:    Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

6 Ways You Can Help Keep Our Water Clean (Natural Resources Defense Council)

30 Practical Ways To Cut Fuel And Energy Use And Allow The Natural Environment To Grow Again

Aspen Seedlings on the Brian Head Fire Footprint

Aspen Seedlings on the Brian Head Fire Footprint: A few remaining aspen trees standing after the Brian Head fire Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer
A few remaining aspen trees standing after the Brian Head fire
Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer

The rustling noise of wind blowing through aspen trees is a sweet sound for many Utahns, reminding them of home.Aspen Seedlings on the Brian Head Fire Footprint

The quaking aspen became Utah’s state tree in 2014.   It grows in all 29 counties and is recognized by its off-white bark with black spots and streaks. In the fall, aspen’s heart-shaped leaves turn bright yellow and make a vibrant splash of color against backdrops of green conifers and rocky ridges.

In addition to its aesthetic value, aspen helps to create habitat for wildlife, provide shelter for livestock, and increase bird and plant diversity. In a fire, aspen burns less readily than other trees, so aspen forests can help reduce fire risk.

Aspen suckers growing between fallen wood from the Brian Head fire Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer
Aspen suckers growing between fallen wood from the Brian Head fire
Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer

The aspens reproduce in two different ways.  The most common way is they make root sprouts called “suckers”, which are genetically identical to the root, and can lead to the formation of a group of identical trees called a “clone”. 

The second less common way is when aspen produce seeds, the seedlings have a mixture of genes from two parent trees.   Aspen do not produce seeds every year, and seedlings can have a hard time getting established in dry soils.

Aspen seedling from the Brian Head fire footprint. Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer
Aspen seedling from the Brian Head fire footprint. Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer

Rumor has it an early USU Forestry professor offered an A to any student who could find an aspen seedling in the wild, making the point of how rare the seedlings were.   However, research at USU and elsewhere over the past decade is showing that aspen seedlings may be more common than we think, especially after fires. 

In the summer of 2017, the Brian Head fire burned over 70,000 acres in the high country of southern Utah.  Aspen is already playing a large role in the regeneration of this forest, producing a thicket of suckers under preexisting aspen

In July of this year, homeowners Mike and Julie Saemisch “Samish” in Brian Head, Utah were walking through some surviving aspens in the fire footprint,  when they noticed something unusual and surprising – these aspens were producing an extraordinary amount of seeds.

They brought this to the attention of USU Professors Larissa Yocom, a fire ecologist, and Karen Mock, an aspen geneticist, both in the Department of Wildland Resources, in the Quinney College of Natural Resources. 

Yocom said, “It looked like snow in July, there was so much aspen cotton draped over every surface.”

Mock visited the site in September to see whether these seeds were germinating.  She explains, “Seedlings were everywhere – thousands and thousands of them, including in places where aspen did not previously exist”. 

Aspen seedling growing on the Brian Head fire footprint. Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer
Aspen seedling growing on the Brian Head fire footprint.
Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer
Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer

According to Yocom, “Fire has created a window of opportunity [for aspen] by opening up growing space [and decreasing competition]. It removed trees, shrubs, and understory plants that compete with small aspen.  The [seedlings] have nutrients, water, sunlight, and open soil free from fallen leaves and vegetation.”

Aspen seedling growing near charred tree from the Brian Head fire Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer
Aspen seedling growing near charred tree from the Brian Head fire
Courtesy & Copyright Karen Mock, Photographer

Mock explains, “All the right ingredients came together for this to happen: fire, seed production, and good monsoon rain timing.  Events like this can present an opportunity for adaptive evolution, range expansion and range shifts in aspen, and those events can leave a mark for hundreds or thousands of years”.

Yocom adds, “A post-fire environment can be harsh with high temperatures at the soil surface and little shade.  But if the seedlings survive through their most vulnerable stage they can grow quickly and may establish dominance across a huge area in the Brian Head Fire footprint.”

Yocom and Mock hope to study the survival of these aspen over the coming years, to find out which aspens survive and how big of an impact herbivory has on the suckers and seedlings.  They hope that this research will help guide future post-fire management practices to encourage strong aspen regeneration after fires.

This is Shauna Leavitt and I’m Wild About Utah.

Aspen Seedlings on the Brian Head Fire Footprint-Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Karen Mock, Wildland Resources, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University, https://qcnr.usu.edu/directory/mock_karen
Audio: Courtesy Western Soundscape Archive, University of Utah, Sound provided by Jeff Rice, licensed under CCA-ND
Text: Shauna Leavitt, Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

Aspen Seedlings on the Brian Head Fire Footprint-Additional Reading

Brian Head Fire Rehabilitation Project, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=52918

Wildland Fire, Managing Land, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/managing-land/fire

Donations, Working With Us, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/donations

After the Fire, Pioneer Fire Reforestation on the Boise National Forest, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/science-technology/fire/after-fire

Maffly, Brian, A year after southern Utah’s Brian Head Fire, the aspens are bouncing back in a surprising way that could strengthen the forest, The Salt Lake Tribune, Oct 22, 2018, https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2018/10/22/year-after-southern/

Knowing Trees

A Guide to the Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West Michael Kuhns, Author Utah State University Press Photo taken of personal copy by Ron Hellstern, Photographer Used with permission
A Guide to the Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West
Michael Kuhns, Author
Utah State University Press
Photo taken of personal copy by Ron Hellstern, Photographer
Used with permission
If you are fortunate to live, or even work, near trees enjoy the many benefits they provide. Perhaps you learned something about them in a biology class you took long ago. But do you know what kind of trees you are looking at now? Consider a few basic elementary tips to help you identify what you are observing. And please understand this will be a generalization.

There are 865 tree species in North America. Your best bet to identify them is to get a Western or Utah Field Guide that includes a dichotomous key, which simply means you are given two choices of characteristics to begin your identification process. Once you make a choice, two more characteristics are presented and you continue making choices until you can identify the tree you are observing. Today, I’ll concentrate on the native and naturalized trees of Utah.

Let’s start with Utah Conifers, the gymnosperm trees that bear cones. Inspecting the needles will help you “at least” identify the genus to which they belong. Remember the first letter of Firs, Spruce and Pines to provide a hint to their species:

FIRS have flat and friendly needles to the touch. Common Utah firs include White, Subalpine, and Douglas Fir (which really isn’t a fir, but can be recognized by its cone which looks like little tails on the bracts extending out from under the cone scales.

SPRUCE trees have sharp and square needles. Trying to shake hands with a spruce can be painful, but their individual needles can be rolled between your thumb and finger. Utah has the Blue and Engelmann Spruce.

PINES have packets of two or more needles bundled together as they grow out of the twig. Common pines in Utah include the Bristlecone, Limber, Lodgepole, Pinyon, and Ponderosa.

JUNIPERS have scaley, twiggy leaves and grow in the rocky soils and dry plains and hills where we have either Utah Juniper or Rocky Mountain Juniper. They are quite similar but Utah Junipers have gray bark and yellow-green needles. The Rocky Mountain trees have reddish-brown bark and gray-green needles.

Broadleaf Trees are a little trickier. This is where your dichotomous key and field guide can really help. Once again, I’ll only concentrate on generalities.

MAPLES are palmately lobed, meaning they have leaves that are shaped like hands with very pointy fingers. Look for Rocky Mountain Maple, Bigtooth Maple and Box Elder.

OAKS have leaves that look like rounded lobes all along their edges. Some people say they remind them of feathers.

Here are a few of many qualities of leaves to consider:
Leaf shape – Are they oval, linear, oblong or another shape?
Do they grow opposite or alternate on branches?
Are there single or compound leaves?
Are the margins smooth, serrated like a steak knife, or have another edge?

Remember, you might be looking at a tree from another country sold at a retail nursery store.

Pando, the worlds largest known organism at Fishlake in central Utah Image courtesy USDA Forest Service J Zapell, Photographer
Pando, the worlds largest known organism at Fishlake in central Utah
Image courtesy USDA Forest Service
J Zapell, Photographer
In closing, I’ll remind Utahns that the Quaking Aspen was designated as our State Tree in 2014. To its credit, the largest aspen colony, named Pando the Trembling Giant, is in Utah near Fishlake and is a single collection of more than 70,000 trunks connected to a single root system.

That is another reason I am Wild About Utah. This is Ron Hellstern.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Utah State University Press an imprint of University Press of Colorado
Photo of personal copy of the book taken by Ron Hellstern
Image: Pando Aspen Colony, Courtesy USDA Forest Service, J Zapell, Photographer
Text: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading

Kuhns, Michael, https://upcolorado.com/utah-state-university-press/item/2130-a-guide-to-the-trees-of-utah-and-the-intermountain-west

Little, Elbert L, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees–W: Western Region, Chanticleer Press https://www.amazon.com/National-Audubon-Society-American-Trees-W/dp/0394507614 alternatively https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/119974/national-audubon-society-field-guide-to-north-american-trees–w-by-national-audubon-society/

Watts, Tom & Bridget, Rocky Mountain Tree Finder, Nature Study Guild, Menasha Ridge Press, Birmingham, AL https://www.amazon.com/Rocky-Mountain-Tree-Finder-Watts/dp/0912550295 alternatively
https://www.menasharidge.com/product.php?productid=17125

What Tree Is That, A Guide to More Common Trees Found in North America, The Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE, https://www.amazon.com/What-Tree-That-America-Recipient/dp/0963465759 alternatively https://www.arborday.org/trees/whattree/whatTree.cfm?ItemID=E6A

Tree Identification Index, USU Extension Forestry, https://forestry.usu.edu/tree-identification/index

Kuhns, Michael, Rupp, Lawrence, Selecting and Planting Landscape Trees, USU Extension Forestry, https://forestry.usu.edu/files/selecting-and-planting-landscape-trees.pdf

Key To The Trees Of Logan Canyon, USU Extension Forestry, https://forestry.usu.edu/tree-identification/keys-to-trees-of-logan/keys-to-trees-of-logan-canyon