Poetry of the Forest

Poetry of the Forest: Fall Colors along the Nebo Loop between Payson, UT and HWY 132 between Nephi and Fountain Green. Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Fall Colors along the Nebo Loop between Payson, UT and HWY 132 between Nephi and Fountain Green.
Courtesy USDA Forest Service

There are people who can capture beautiful scenery by painting on canvas, using film photography, and with digital technology. And these forms of art can be visually stunning. But there is a unique perspective of visualizing when written words are read, allowing one’s mind to see not only the exterior of a scene, but the interior heart intended by the writer.

What memories does your mind recall as you listen to the words of these renowned authors about the poetry of the forest?

  • Robert Louis Stevenson – …it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of the air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
  • John Fowles – In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them, yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.
  • Walt Whitman – Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
  • William Wordsworth – One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man, of moral evil and of good, than all the sages can.
  • Marcel Proust – We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees, that vigorous and Pacific tribe which without stint produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent and intimate hours.
  • Washington Irving – As the leaves of trees are said to absorb all noxious qualities of the air, and to breathe forth a purer atmosphere, so it seems to me as if they drew from us all sordid and angry passions and breathed forth peace and philanthropy. There is a severe and settled majesty in woodland scenery that enters into the soul, and dilates and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.
  • James Henry Leigh Hunt – They refresh the commonplaces of life, shed a harmony through the busy discord, and appeal to those first sources of emotion, which are associated with the remembrance of all that is young and innocent. They seem also to present us with a portion of the tranquility we think we are laboring for.
  • Harold Monro – One summer afternoon, you find some lonely trees. Persuade your mind to drowse. Then, as your eyelids close, and you still hover into those three stages of a darkening doze, this side the barrier of sleep,…..pause. In that last clear moment open quick your sight toward where the green is bright and thick. Be sure that everything you keep to dream with is made out of trees.

    Plantng a Tree Coutesy USDA Forest Service
    Plantng a Tree
    Coutesy USDA Forest Service
    *Lucy Larcom – He who plants a tree plants a hope.

  • Henry David Thoreau – In wildness is the preservation of the world. Silence alone is worthy to be heard.
  • English Proverb – He that plants trees loves others beside himself.

    Text: Excerpts from the book, “The Forest”, compiled by Michelle Lovric https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Poetry-Earth-Michelle-Levric/dp/1561385077
    Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service
    Collector & Reader: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

    Additional Reading

    Lovric, Michelle, The Forest, A Celebration of Nature, In Word and Image, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Poetry-Earth-Michelle-Levric/dp/1561385077

    Poems about Trees, Academy of American Poets, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poems-about-trees

    Search for Poems about Trees, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/search?query=trees

  • Capitol Reef

    Fruita and the Wingate Cliffs
    Capitol Reef National Park
    Photo Courtesy US NPS

    Capitol Reef National Park
    Photo Courtesy US NPS

    Early settlers to the landscape we know as Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah planted cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, and walnut trees as a cash crop for survival along the Fremont River bottoms. Visitors today are often surprised by the fruit trees in light of the surrounding desert climate, and campers can pick apples and peaches from their campsites in the orchards. But the green fields and fruit trees also attract deer, marmots, and other small critters, which are easy to spot and are comfortable with humans in their environment.

    Though the deer roam free in the tall grass between apple trees, there are other species that are a bit more dangerous lurking nearby. Mountain lions and black bears skillfully stalk around this historic district of Fruita without being seen. Mountain lions have been spotted within a half-mile of the popular campground, yet little is known about the species within the confines of Capitol Reef. With so many questions unanswered about the predator and prey relationship in the unique landscape, the park has received a Disney Nature Impact Grant to enlighten us.

    Lori Rome, the park’s chief of interpretation, says, “We are setting up 10-20 infrared motion detected camera traps in surrounding areas. This is a non-invasive way to learn basic information about the species.”

    The cameras will provide useful evidence and reveal the patterns of the quiet predators in the park. The public will be engaged through a citizen science project using social media and public interpretive programming, for example helping to survey deer populations.

    If you’ve seen Disney Nature’s movie Bears, you, too, helped contribute to the Disney Nature Impact Grants program. Fourteen national parks are receiving funding via proceeds from the movie. Disney Nature has pledged a contribution to the National park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, for each person who saw the film during its first week in theaters.

    This type of support helps preserve and protect Capitol Reef and the rest of the National Park System. The Disney Nature Impact Grant enables parks to conduct much-needed conservation projects, such as studying mountain lions at Capitol Reef.

    Each park selected to receive a grant through this program had to demonstrate a clear need for the money, and how it would make a profound difference in habitat restoration, wildlife protection or conservation research. With this assistance, we should be able understand predator’s actions in Capitol Reef National Park.

    For Wild About Utah and National Parks Traveler, I’m Kurt Repanshek.

    Image: Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, www.nationalparkstraveler.com
    Text:     Kurt Repanshek, NationalParksTraveler.com.

    Additional Reading:

    Capitol Reef And 13 Other National Parks Receive Impact Grants From Disney Nature’s Movie “Bears”, Submitted by Carli Jones, June 26, 2014, NationalParksTraveler.comhttp://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2014/06/capitol-reef-and-13-other-national-parks-receive-impact-grants-disney-natures-movie-bears25263

    Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/park/capitol-reef-national-park

    Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm

    Mammals in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/mammalchecklist.htm
    Amphibians in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/amphibians.htm
    Fish in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/fish.htm
    Birds in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/birds.htm
    Reptiles in Capital Reef National Park, http://www.nps.gov/care/naturescience/reptiles.htm

    Great Basin Bristlecone Pines Utah’s Mountain Sentinels

    Bristlecone Pine
    Photo Courtesy & Copyright
    Mark Larese-Casanova, Photographer

    Bristlecone Pine Grain
    Compared to a Dime
    Photo Courtesy & Copyright
    Mark Larese-Casanova, Photographer

    Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

    Utah’s cold mountaintops, like its hottest deserts, are rather inhospitable to most plants. Although more precipitation falls at higher elevations, colder temperatures prevent much of the water from being used by plants, since most of it falls as snow in winter. High winds also inhibit growth and can contribute to frost or wind damage to plants. Any plants that grow here must be especially hardy.

    The Great Basin bristlecone pine is a grand sentinel of our rocky, high mountain ridges. Its shorter needles are grouped in bundles of five, and grow densely at the end of the branches, creating a ‘bottlebrush’ or ‘foxtail’. However, the growth of the wood is the most interesting aspect of the Great Basin bristlecone pine. For a tree, each ring represents one year of growth. Because of the colder temperatures and shorter growing season, each growth ring of a bristlecone pine is particularly small, usually around 1/32th of an inch. The tight growth rings result in especially dense, resinous wood that is resistant to decay and insects.

    At higher elevations, a bristlecone pine’s growth form becomes more twisted and contorted by the wind. Over time, much of the tree may die, and the living portion may simply be a strip of bark up the trunk and just a few branches.

    These adaptations allow the Great Basin bristlecone pine to live an exceptionally long life despite such harsh conditions. It is common for a bristlecone pine to live for thousands of years, and the oldest recorded specimen was aged at approximately 5,000 years old. That means it germinated from seed a few hundred years before the first Egyptian pyramid was even built! Bristlecone pines can even remain standing for thousands of years after they die. Growth ring patterns can be compared between living and dead bristlecone pines to reveal a chronology of our climate for the past seven, eight, maybe ten thousand years!

    To see bristlecone pines in Utah, hike the Bristlecone Pine Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park or the Ramparts Trail at Cedar Breaks National Monument. Be sure to take only photos, and not wood or cones. Bristlecone pines will be around a lot longer than we will, and they could use all the help they can get.

    For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.

    Images: Courtesy & Copyright Mark Larese-Casanova
    Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova, Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

    Additional Reading:

    Lanner, R.M. 2007. The Bristlecone Book: A Natural History of the World’s Oldest Trees. Mountain Press Publishing Company.

    Cohen, M. P. 1998. A Garden Of Bristlecones: Tales Of Change In The Great Basin. University of Nevada Press.

    Autumn Colors

    Autumn Colors: Fall Colors in Cache County Photo © 2006 Bridgerland Audubon Society
    Fall Colors in Cache County
    Photo © 2006 Bridgerland Audubon Society

    In autumn, our days shorten noticeably and frosty dawns become the norm across most of Utah. Now leafy plants must be preparing for winter. Their summer of intense metabolic activities must gradually give way to winter’s dormancy. Photosynthesis and respiration are gradually shut down as nutrients and sugars are withdrawn from leaves, to be shunted to the stem and roots for storage.

    The brilliant autumn yellows of our aspens, ash trees and cottonwoods, as well as the crimsons of our maples and sumacs, are all indicative of leafy plants frugality with their valuable nutrient stores. The foliar pigment phytochrome first registers the lengthening nights, initiating the cascade of physiological events that prepare a tree for the icy blasts of winter. Before discarding their leaves, deciduous trees and shrubs rescue and store what they can of sugars and nutrients found in their leaves.

    The key photosynthetic green pigment, chlorophyll, and its attendant enzymes are all broken down, their components moved to storage for recycling next spring. Essential nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are likewise extracted from foliage for later reuse. With chlorophyll gone, the other colorful leaf pigments are revealed in all their glory. These accessory pigments have been there all along, they just have been masked by the dominant green of chlorophyll.

    These accessory pigments serve several functional purposes for the leaf. Some pigments protect the leaf from sunburn, some scavenge free radicals, but most capture energy from wavelengths of light missed by chlorophyll. The multi-hued spectrum of sunlight, as revealed by a prism or a rainbow, not only allows us to see splashy fall foliage colors, it is the reason for their existence.

    For the plant physiologist and chemist, then, the palette of colorful leaf pigments have complex functional explanations. More mysterious psychological stirrings accompany the aching beauty of our autumn foliage, but it gives an undeniable tug at my heart. Standing before a blazing yellow stand of aspens, I smile to think that recycling can be so beautiful.

    Photo: Courtesy www.bridgerlandaudubon.org
    Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society – Jim Cane, Linda Kervin

    Additional Reading:
    Utah Scenic Byways, http://www.utah.com/byways/fallcolorstour.htm
    Utah Fall Colors, http://travel.utah.gov/Fallcolors.htm