Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arrested Development: Why does JCP&L Hate Trees?

Yesterday the kwanza cherries were incandescent,
against a steely sky.
It was very cold and windy,
a horrible afternoon but for this pink blizzard.
What follows is not so pretty.
By chance I happened across this JCP&L facility in Morristown.
This pair of oaks in front of their fence is perfectly illustrative of the arrested development to be seen everywhere this spring.
Many trees have no leaves; more have insufficient cover; NONE are as full as they should be.
This is a trend that is not going in a good direction, at all. I believe the decline of trees from volatile organic compounds in the air and acid rain began decades ago - but the sudden, rapid acceleration of visible symptoms of poisoning is much more recent, and advancing algorithmically.
There are so many trees with bare branches it is just plain scary, and at this rate they will all soon be stone dead.
Across the parking lot, trees struggle valiantly to leaf out.
On top of being often altogether absent, another trend is for what foliage has emerged to be thin and weak.
Leaves hang limply. This occurred last spring, 2009, as well - but now it is more pronounced.
Branches are droopy. Clusters of leaves are starting to fall already - if last year is an indication, I expect to see many fall to the ground in the coming weeks.
When the wind blows, it is apparent how flimsy the leaves are.
This house is across the street from JCP&L.
We have chosen a world of power lines over a world of trees.
This maple exhibits a site that is common this year - very heavy seed production by deciduous trees, so that their crowns from afar are hazy shades of pinks, oranges, and yellows. It has made for an unusual palette in the landscape.
When a tree favors seeds over foliage, it is a sign of decline, just as the conifers have been overproducing cones for the last two years.
This morning the sky was pure cerulean.
These maple seeds are a peachy color, and the leaves aren't so much green as yellow.
The trees are putting their energy into reproduction rather than leaves,
because they know they are dying. These chestnut leaves dangle with no strength or substance.
Here is a colorful tree of seeds.
Another oddity is that many trees still have lingering seeds and leaves from last year. It takes vigor to shed them, and these trees are just about out of energy...they are unable to produce more because ozone damages their stomata.
Distorted trunks and branches are increasingly apparent.
Trees weakened by toxic greenhouse gases fall victim to opportunistic fungus, bacteria, and insects, much as AIDS victims will die from any common infection. Foresters in Britain are apparently as flummoxed as their American counterparts - "mysterious" bacteria is killing trees! oh my! This is a very important article which demonstrates that 1. all sorts of different tree species are dying and 2. there aren't any foresters who know why. I will write to members of the British Forestry Association to advice them they should consider the composition of the atmosphere, who will then almost certainly ignore me.
Yes, the trees are bleeding! It could be from bacteria.
And fungus is the likely cause of cankers...but there is a much broader agent making trees susceptible to these existential threats - and vulnerable to lichens as well. Why am I the only one cursed with hearing the silent screams of trees??
Here a copper beech is leafing out unevenly
and its trunk is bleeding.
This sycamore fell over last fall.
But look, it is leafing out anyway!
Even though it's obviously going to die - I mean, it's flat on the ground! - it is showing more life than the tree still standing behind it. My point? Even though some trees are putting out leaves in an admirable show of bravado, they are all dying. Whatever the mechanism that is depriving them of the ability to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll, it is only going to worsen as people refuse to consider an urgent need to stop burning coal, gasoline, oil, and ethanol.
Back at Wit's End, I searched the woods for morels.
I didn't find any, of course. I didn't find any last year, or the year before - although the year before that there were so many I was giving them to local chefs in exchange for free restaurant meals! Sound familiar? It's the same thing the trees do - excessive fruiting, pine cone or seed production. I did find lots of jack-in-the-pulpits though. This grouping looks like they are having a conversation.
Sometimes they are striped with purple, other times, pale white.
The May Apples are blooming, in April!
Their leaves are wilted even on such a cool day.
In order to see the hidden blossom, you have to crouch down and peer underneath the leaves that are like little umbrellas.
Wild honeysuckle is perfuming the wetlands.
This variety of tulip is one of the last to bloom, most of the others have finished.
I love its pale delicacy.
The wisteria on the porch is glorious,
while on the other side, the grapevine is already making tiny clusters.
This is blackhaw viburnum, a native shrubby tree not quite neat enough for a garden and not as elegant a pure white as the dogwood.
But they are scattered around the woods for free so I have been careful to preserve them.
Here is dogwood this morning, in brilliant sun:
The bracts seem to float as though they are weightless.
Lilacs are their peak weeks earlier than they should be.
My little copper beech, that I planted a few years ago with great anticipation that it would outlive me by several centuries, flops sadly in the breeze.
The neighbor has a spring-fed pond. Decades ago the gentleman who lived there had it excavated to look like a heart from the vantage of the dining room window, as a surprise for his wife when they returned from a holiday in Europe. Wasn't that sweet?


  1. I noticed this afternoon leaves of the big oak cut yesterday, which were found on branches their tree shredder had missed. These one-day dead leaves were completely shriveled with no substance, almost tissue paper. Someone needs to start weighing leaves.

  2. oh yes. What I realized today after I put up this post is that one reason the trees look so oddly colored is their leaves are transparent. sunlight goes through them, they have little pigment (chlorophyll). It makes for a quite sparkly but terrifying spectacle. Wait till we get a major heatwave this summer. They will all fry. This afternoon I did a quick inventory and in 5 minutes found leaves already on the ground from: 2 types of maples, 2 types of oak, tulip poplar, linden, and tupolo. There weren't any from sycamore, ash, black walnut and beech, because they are still in the bud stage.


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