Part one: Conifers
A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. – John Muir
As a young person I developed a deep love and bond with trees. I spent hours climbing trees, swinging in the boughs of a large fir or sitting high in an oak tree. I loved the ability to see long distances across the landscape. I found many interesting things in trees. Bird nests, ferns, nuts, acorns, mistletoe and insects all fed my imagination. I found incredible peace in the treetops. I would have been very happy to have lived in a tree house.
So now I teach you what I know about trees.
I have spent months now teaching you basic botany. I have focused on the parts of the plant. I want to begin to teach you how to go into the forest and find plants. I will teach you about the trees first. I will be focusing primarily on the trees found in the Cascadian bio-region-that area found from Northern California, through Oregon and Washington state and up through British Columbia. The Cascade mountain range separates the Western regions from the Eastern Regions but mant of the areas share similar tree and plant communities.
There are of course some amazing micro-ecosystems found in Cascadia. For instance the eco-system of Northern California and Southwestern Oregon are very different from the eco-system of Western British Columbia and Western Washington. More on that later.
Trees have always been the marker that I use to find the plants I am seeking. Why?
Because I can look out across the horizon and see the tall trees, the old ones that will have the most to share as far as a finding plant communities. For instance, when I am looking for wild orchids or lilies, I will look to the horizon to find a large Douglas fir old growth or a very tall Western Red cedar.
Trees are the anchor for plant communities. They create habitat, keep plants fed and watered, provide shelter for pollinators and animals that carry the seeds throught the forest. Large Douglas fir and Western Redcedar have an outreach affect that can cover miles of terrain. The mycelium connected through the roots of big trees support thousands and thousands of varieties of plants. Communication between the species found under big trees has been studied and now documented.
University of British Columbia professor Suzanne Simard, has discovered through her research that “trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected with the largest, oldest ‘mother trees’ serving as hubs”. This research has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees.
The research also found that all the forest plants had a much better chance of survival if they were linked into the network of old trees. It was found that increased survival was associated with below-ground transfer of carbon, nitrogen and water from the old trees. This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests. (Simard 2013)
There are two different groups of trees – conifers and deciduous. Conifers are the evergreens. And, deciduous are the trees that drop their leaves in the fall and re-grow green leaves in the spring.
THE 12 MOST IMPORTANT CONIFERS IN THE WESTERN CASCADIAN BIO-REGION – and how to identify them.
The trees I will be teaching you about are all found west of the Cascades. Later I will make some charts of important trees found east of the Cascades but still in the Cascadian bio-region. The charts below include information about what the tree needle, cone and general shape look like. This information should help you identify them. I have included information about wildlife that use the tree for survival and I have included ethno-botanical information about the tree. I have created some graphs that you can print out and make as large as you like. They are stored as graphics on this web page. I hope that you will print them out, take them into the forest and try to identify the trees as you walk. I hope that you will fall in love with the trees as I have.
- Coastal Douglas-Fir Forests and Wildlife – Woodland Fish and Wildlife December 1992 viewed online July 20, 2012 – http://www.woodlandfishandwildlife.org/pubs/coastal-df.pdf
- Gilkey, Helen M. & Dennis, L. J. (2001) Handbook of Northwestern Plants. Corvallis, OR: OSU Press
- Gunther, Erna. (1945) (Revised 1973) Ethnobotany of Western Washington. Knowledge and use of Indigenous plants by Native Americans, University of Washinton Press.
- Moerman, Daniel E. (2004) Native American Ethnobotany. Portland: Timber Press.
- Old Growth Forest Wiki- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old-growth_forest
- Pojar & McKinnon, (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska, Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, British Columbia
- Simard, S.W., Martin, K., Vyse, A., and Larson, B. (2013) Meta-networks of fungi, fauna and flora as agents of complex adaptive systems Managing World Forests as Complex Adaptive Systems in the Face of Global Change. Edited by Puettmann, K, Messier, C, and Coates, KD, Earthscan, Taylor & Francis Group, London. In press.
- Simard, Suzanne – Trees Communicate With One Another, Connected by Fungi (Video) http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/trees-communicate-one-another-connected-fungi-video.html