Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Flowers Gone Rogue

Today we have a mix of lovely flowers and miserable trees, as usual.

Let's start with the trees and get that over with. Those pictured here possessed full crowns even at the end of last summer, and I was surprised at how robust they appeared when others were in poor condition by August. Now, they are thinning noticeably by the day, dropping those leaves that did appear earlier in spring. I don't know if it's possible to tell from the pictures, but they are huge mature trees. It is a dismal prospect that they too are in decline. It appears to be universal, at least in this neck of the world.

I could be getting overwrought on this but the individual leaves look odd - aside from being dry, furled, and droopy - in that they appear to be translucent. I didn't have time to take more than a couple of shots of this but I have been noticing it on various species and will try to take more photos in the next few days.

I'm guessing a bit here because I may have forgotten, but I'm pretty sure that when my kids went to pony camp every summer, year after year, it was in the middle of July. We would cool off in the shade of a mulberry tree, and eat mulberries. Yum! Here they are in June, and they've been ripe for over a week. And the leaves just flopped over totally limp.

The weeping cherry next to the pond is exactly in the condition of every other. Dreadful. If you watch "The Guiding Light" (I never have, I understand it's a soap opera on the teevee) they film by this pond every week. The cedar tree in front of the cabin that is so woefully bare is across from the pond.

Then there's the nasty black fungus creeping all over the tree trunks, this particular one is a maple. This has started in the past 6 months or so and is spreading like crazy.

The flowers are all those that have escaped their proper garden beds and run amuck at Wit's End. The cosmos has self-sown in the driveway, the cleome is everywhere and the rest just suit themselves.

Those big green leaves (I forget the Latin name) are quite nice as a ground cover in an otherwise useless damp spot (and they have funny flowers very early in spring that look like they came from outer space), but I also made the awful mistake of putting them near a spring next to the vegetable garden and they have taken over. Their roots are so rugged that I have had to resort to poison, regretfully. But they are hogging an otherwise productive spot.


  1. Here's a link to the US Forest service. You can get lot's of up to date information for individual counties, states and regions. There's contact information for people who can give definitive answers about the extent of problems with the trees and the sources of those problems.

  2. Hey, Paul Kelly, thanks for your thoughts.

    Believe me, I have written to and called every conservation and forestry organization, and every university researcher I can find.

    They are generally useless. They are in the worst state of denial. After all, what future is there for a forester, or advocate of "Plant a Tree Day" if they acknowledge the fundamental fact that the climate has changed, end of story, and that means, no kidding, mass extinctions.

    That would really erode their fundraising - save the polar bear - base. So they refuse to confront what they really need to do.


  3. Just wondering, are the experts you've consulted telling you that the trees are not in trouble or that the trees are troubled for reasons other than drought and human induced climate change?

  4. Paul Kelly, the climate experts and evolutionary biologists seem to be just about the only ones that get the big picture. The rest usually say it's a virus, or a disease, or a pest, which often are present, but secondary in most cases with some exceptions - sycamores and dogwood are subject to anthracnose, the ash trees have a borer, and the hemlocks have wooly aphids. Of course, it's also possible these trees are more suceptible to such predations thanks to climate change.

    I wrote to the trustees of the Doris Duke Foundation, which maintains her properties, one of which is an enormous estate in nearby Somerville. Among other charitable causes part of their responsibility is to address environmental problems and climate change. (http://www.ddcf.org/page.asp?pageId=11)

    I pointed out to them that their very own estate is full of dying trees. They fobbed this information off to the resident forester who wrote back to me and said that the trees are very old and that is why they are dying, completely ignoring a central point of my letter which is that trees of all ages are in equally poor shape. Well, the guy is employed to plant trees there so he'd literally be out of a job if he conveyed the truth to the trustees.

    One professor rather condescendingly told me to stop worrying, because trees are robust. I take the contrary position, that they are quite delicate in the sense that they are the result of a particular environment which is exactly the environment they need, and they simply must have that which they evolved to survive in. Likewise, the ecosystem is delicately calibrated to be in equilibrium which has also evolved to have balance. Alter one significant part and all other parts must react. Some species may thrive at the expense of others.

    It's hard for me to understand why people, especially scientists, can't see what is right in front of them. But then, to fully comprehend the far-reaching consequences of a widespread failure of trees is an extremely daunting prospect. I should know. I go through it every day.

    Just this morning I wrote to this scientist:

    http://www.nd.edu/~lumen/2007_04/Butterfliesandthebiologyofclimatechange.shtml and I'll be very interested in any response I may get, since she seems to have a realistic approach - although of course, I'm sure she would rather her research show species will migrate when they can't adapt (because who wouldn't wish for that) but it doesn't.

    Here's the article about her paper that led me to write:


    So often, scientists have a very narrow focus - which is the correct way to do science. I admire them for the temerity it takes to drill and read hundreds or thousands of ice cores or tree rings, or count pollen buried under the sea. But I haven't really been able to find anyone who is studying the decline of Eastern Forests - I wish I could find someone! Because usually someone studying, say, butterflies, isn't particularly interested in trees - even though without them, the butterflies won't survive either.

    There are plenty of scientists doing research on trees out west and a few in the boreal forest of Canada, but few if any here.

    I'm going to put this in a post later but you can have a preview if you like:


  5. It must be frustrating. I feel you've fallen into a kind of pessimism, seeing what might happen in the future as happening now. I like to focus on the solution rather than the problem, putting my efforts into hosting 21st century energy forums in Chicago.


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