Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall colors on Trees

Here in Montgomery County and everywhere in Southeast Texas, we begin a little bit later than in the north to see fall colors. Sometimes, we see almost nothing at all except for the Chinese Tallow which is considered an invasive species and outlawed from trees nursery sale inventories. That tree is very ornamental in the fall, one trait that brought its popularity in the past century. In reality, this is not a place for a fall showing of trees, but sometimes it really surprises me what the native trees will do. Technically the Fall season has arrived, but it will be a while before the trees think it has arrived due to our southern position.

What causes the differences we see each year? It is the weather, pure and simple. Rain while the leaves become deprived of nutrients is a key component in determining the colors. The sugar content of a leaf is very important to its coloration and brilliance. If we get an early frost, the leaves are more likely to drop as ugly dried brown leaves than colored leaves, although it depends on the species and the moisture as well. Because we have had a near average rainfall this year, I am expecting a better fall show in this area. We have a fairly large population of native hardwoods interlaced among the evergreens, enough to give us a spectacular show when the conditions are right. I have seen a few trees already beginning to have fall colors, even though it is very hot. Too much heat can offset the beauty  given by the water. If we do not receive much rain and the heat stays with us, fall will again just be a blink of the eye. We need long and cool night with some light rain. More details can be found in this link: Explanation of Fall coloring

USDA Forest Service reports the fall colors for all national parks at this link. This may give insight into what is happening as the fall unfolds in the southeast. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bald Cypress in The Woodlands

Cypress trees are found here on ponds, creek beds and lowlands. I have planted many on the pond near our home in The Woodlands, Texas. Talk about slow growing! Talk about living to be old! They can be 800+ years old. These trees do their best in wet but fertile soil as one would expect. The soil on the banks of the nearby pond is not very nutrient rich. In fact is is heavy clay. Our 8 year tree has been pruned several times, not by us but by people who do not appreciate what it takes to grow one of these. We have one in our backyard that is doing very well and is turning into a fruit bearing tree this year after about 7 years of growth from a small sapling. It must now be about 12 feet tall.  Notice the low hanging branches. These often provide protection for deer and other creatures during the day in the forest. It also provides shade for fish in the water. The knees grow in water and land. Is is speculated that they enable the plant to get oxygen when the roots are submerged, but I have my doubts that anything of that sort is important to the tree. I suspect it has something else to do with survival in the water. 

Viewing the fruit, one is led to believe that this might be edible. Wrong! The tree is a conifer.  These little balls turn into a plated cone, like a pine tree and sends seeds into the air for sprouting new trees. Right now the fruit is very pretty on the tree. This happens to be our maturing Cypress of about 12 feet.

Another interesting characteristic of this tree is its shedding of leaves. It does this in the late fall and dry summer. That seems to protect it from severe weather. It sprouts new leaves when the rains come and turns green again. It is not hardy when it comes to fire. Several of the ones I planted were exposed to fire and did nto come back. Some did, leafing out from the roots but not the burned trunks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Woodlands Forest Understory Wins One

The residents in The Woodlands Texas won over the development  company in some conservation of forest last night at the Sterling Ridge Village Association Meeting. Joel Deretchin brought some good news to those who were concerned about losing vegetation which shielded their homes from view. Yaupon is too often thought of as a trash tree. It provides important berries for birds and wildlife, as well as provides the undergrowth to help protect our large trees. A forest is not a tree and a tree is not a forest. To save the forest, we must also retain the understory, not just retain the large diameter trees, but the full forest of canopy and understory.

A green area in the Tarramont Park area shields homes on the golf course from traffic, giving the residents their privacy. The Woodlands Development Company decided to remove it without talking to residents, to provide a view of the golf course from the road.  After a few residents observed the activity, more came to an awareness of this project. Many residents expressed concern and became very outspoken on the issue. The Development Company stopped the project and formulated a plan that hopefully will include the residents on future clearing projects.  They will replace that which they removed and leave the green area in place.

After a certain point in development, the company needs to include residents on anything they do. This type of issue has risen many times. After people invest in properties, they have a large stake in further development and changes about them. The development company has the responsibility to include them in future decisions to change green areas. The Yaupon and other understory species are an important part of our forest. We need more sensitivity of their presence and role.  Green areas are important to residents. There are proven psychological and value advantages for having the full diversity forest in our midst.

As the people in the room clapped, I could see an element of surprise on the face of Mr Deretchin. This was much more important than the development company realized. It is also a lesson on general policy of inclusion of residents. It had the potential of blowing up and being blasted out to the news media with a red flag of resident investment risk.  

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring has sprung even before winter is over - seeds of the elm

One of the first trees to recognize that Spring is here is the Elm. It blooms and sows its seeds before most trees even show buds for flowers. This happens right at Valentines each year.In the sunlight, the seeds can appear magnificent, and putting a light through them, one can see how they will be blown about by the wind and establish themselves far away. I have dozens of them coming up in the yard every year. A very prolific tree which migrating birds love. The leaves don't begin to appear until the seeds start to fall. Such an amazing tree!