Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Too Negative!

I have been told that my blog is too negative and depressing. Duh! It's about dead trees, mostly!

But I guess it bears repeating that I do think there is a possibility of at least short-term salvation, although I don't mention it every time I post, because I can't prove it. Nevertheless, hope is a principal reason that I started this blog, where I document the decline of trees, and compile links to research.

A number of commenters at the Coffee Party feel that climate change is too controversial a topic to include on their platform, and rather than scare people with apocalyptic predictions, it is a better strategy to win people over with notions of a cleaner environment, of not being dependent of foreign sources of oil for reasons of national security, and the prospect of job creation in the clean energy sector.

This is nonsense. You can't solve a problem if you don't recognize the problem is there in the first place. It's like getting an obese person to lose weight by simply offering them fresh vegetables and fruit along with their Big Mac, fries and chocolate shake. Good luck with that approach. Cheap coal power will never be replaced by clean energy unless the real costs - of environmental degradation from mountain top removal, health costs from ozone, and mitigating from all the disasters from climate change - are factored in, by government regulation I might add. Car manufacturers fought seat belts tooth and nail because of the cost, but I guess you have to be my age to remember that.

Here is why I have a faint glimmer of hope for the trees: there is no question that ozone damages vegetation, but ozone has been a component in the atmosphere for decades and at times and places in the past, worse than it is now. Trees have no doubt been damaged for a long time, but the last two years or so, the rate at which they are dying has accelerated dramatically, and furthermore, there are a number of strange and unprecedented symptoms of toxic poisoning - numerous lichens and fungi in a rainbow of colors, bleeding sap, splitting bark, rapid decay, and a proliferation of cankers. Thus, I infer that something relatively recent has changed the composition of the atmosphere to produce these phenomena, and the question is, what exactly?

I don't have a laboratory and I'm not a trained scientist, so all I can do is point out the empirical situation to those who do have the capability to investigate - and hopefully, figure out whether it is ethanol or mercury or nitrogen or cell phone radiation or nanotechnology (there's a new one!) - so we can stop doing whatever it is we are doing in time for the forests to recover.

Of course that won't solve climate change, which is a much broader problem, with amplifying feedbacks already primed, and the attendant consequences of things such as desertification, extreme weather, famine, and climate refugees already begun, with much more - and worse - looming fast. But there is still time to adapt, at least for some people in some places, and for technology to develop, for instance, cheap solar power and zippy, convenient electric cars.

There now, isn't that more positive? Okay, back to dead trees!

I had to go to the local car wash, which is smack in the middle of a dead zone.
The boxwood look terrible, and have that peculiar layering of damage, where the outer leaves are burnt more than the inner leaves, which can be seen when the weight of the snow has pulled the branches down.
While the car went through the automated conveyor, I wandered around outside snapping pictures.
The bark on the trees is splitting and falling off.
This is accompanied often by the presence of lichens.
There are wide cracks and others have lots of tiny splits.
The tops of the trees all show broken branches.
This is the best of the pines, many have no needles whatsoever.
Branches are bare of any bark in many instances.
The top of this tree sheered apart.
Around about this time I was approached by the fellow who was perhaps the manager of the car wash who asked me what I was doing. I told him I was waiting for my car.
He was disappointed. "Oh," he said, "I saw you taking pictures and I was hoping it was because somebody was finally going to take all these dead trees down." He surveyed them with disgust. "I guess I'll have to get a chain saw and do it myself."
After I left with a bright shiny vehicle, I stopped at random places and got a hodge-podge of the sort of effects that were once highly unusual but are becoming more and more commonplace. The splitting of bark is one of the most recent and alarming. I don't know if the crusty white is dried sap from oozing out of the cracks or a fungal growth or mineral or perhaps as some believe, chemical deposits.
Another very recent development are these prominent streaks originating from holes, or broken branches.
The colors are ridiculous. Chalky white, black, and green, most odd!
Pieces of bark are falling off of many tree trunks, revealing unweathered matter.
This can be found on all sorts of varieties, from oaks to pines to maples to dogwood.
This magnolia is a spectacular example. It looks like a burn victim, from napalm, or from the white phosphorus the Israelies dropped on Gaza.
Yew bushes are in just as bad shape as the boxwood. Their color is vile.
Now here is a rare color on a tree trunk - a distinctive blue!
It is so odd that I keep thinking maybe somebody painted it, but I can't think of why anyone would, since dressing pruned branches has not been recommended for years.
People turn blue when they suffocate, so maybe this crabapple can't breathe?
It also has terrific boils and breaks in the bark.
It looks abscessed.
When I was out and about, the temperatures were in the 40's, and many trees were actively dripping.
Some were wet, and many others showed dry evidence of prior bleeding.
Quite a bit of the seeping originates from woodpecker holes, which tells you the tree has an insect problem.
Note how bare the earth is at the base of this tree.
Pine needles, where they still exist, have tips that are scorched, a symptom of ozone poisoning.
This pine has raw exposure from lost bark.
I can't find a pine without a significant buildup of sap.

Here's a good example of the lichen gone rampant. Just two years ago, that lichen only appeared in very limited places, in small discs. I never saw a tree blanketed like this one is, along with many others, until this year.
And it gets quite tedious to be told that the lichen is harmless. Maybe that was true once upon a time. But this is a new era, something has changed, and that lichen is closely associated with bark falling off trees, as you can plainly see.
There is more area covered by lichen than not. And that, my friends, means this tree's growing days are over.
Here is another utterly spellbinding manifestation of the bark falling off syndrome.
This pair of plums both exhibit the same deterioration.
So I'm hereby announcing a contest to name this condition.
Put your entries in the comments. Acronyms are nice.
The prize is yet to be determined, you can make suggestions for that too!
Naturally if you look closely enough, you can always find the lichen lurking.

These trees are along the Raritan River.
I've almost come to like the patterns of the lichen, click the photo for an enlargement and you can see that even though scenery appears drab, the lichen adds some vivid color.
As it expands and mixes with other growths, a collage appears.
There is so much empty dirt, in the woods and on lawns, I am very curious to see what happens when spring arrives.
Of course, these silly daffodils, which started growing in January, think spring already arrived long ago.
And apparently these tulips, which I spotted yesterday for the first time, believe March is the new April.


  1. Yours is a great service. The only real negative thing anyone could do, is to do nothing.

    Labeling something negative is a false attribution, these are just conditions of the world. To ignore them, to deny will not make them go away. All the rose colored glasses cannot change reality... only your view of it.

    Good going... keep up the good work.

  2. Obviously you are showing serious cases of Inhofe's Syndrome. It attacks and then the condition called Lindzen peel begins... often associated with Monkton mold.

  3. I'm melting! Melting!! Ohhhh, what a world, what a world!!!

  4. I think (?) the plum trees you refer to above are really Paperbark Maple...but I could be wrong.

  5. Hi Rich,
    i know there are some trees that normally have curly bark, like certain birches and the maple you mention, but these are definitely small ornamental flowering fruit trees, not maples, and I'm pretty sure they are plums because their bark is smoother than that of cherries, pears or crabapples. They are planted on either side of a walkway in front of the entrance to a building.

    This is not an isolated instance of extreme damage - if you scroll back up to the magnolia you will see similar peeling and that is definitely not normal for a magnolia. In fact I've never seen anything remotely like it.


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