Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ancient Trees and Unusual Rough Wave Cloud Formations

Our oldest tree - an Eastern Hemlock "The Owl Tree"
There are few ancient trees to be found in the wilderness areas of Central New York. We only have a handful of them at the nature preserve. All of them are located along what were once property borders, and that's the reason why they were spared the axe. Some of these trees where co-owned by neighbors and were even used as make-shift fenceposts; a few still have some strands of rusty wire hanging out of them. If ever someone was desirous of cutting one down –the lack of certainty over which property the tree was going fall on, usually kept saw from ever meeting the wood. So this is how a few representatives of the old forest managed survived to the present day.

curvaceous craggy fissures characterize this trees bark
The preserve’s oldest living resident is an Eastern Hemlock which we call the Owl Tree. It’s gnarly, weather-scarred and it looks every bit of its estimated 300 years. From its vantage point on the side of a gorge, this tree was a silent witness to the clearing of the virgin forest, which began here in the late 1780s. That was when the land was abruptly converted from virtually all forest to virtually all open fields. The Owl Tree suddenly found itself nearly alone –and one of the few places a wandering (and likely bewildered) owl could have perched. In the previous century, this hemlock got to witness the slow return of some forest, as pastureland was allowed to grow in and hedgerows widened. This hemlock was likely responsible for reseeded the gorge and repopulated the area with its own progeny.

This Beech Tree is approximately 200 years old
Along a different old property border, several 200 year old American Beech Trees also have used their seeds and spreading root sprouts to help repopulate their section of the forest. Beech Bark Disease is in the process of killing many of our resident beech trees, but a few like these giants, are still hanging on. They have the disease, but it has not completely corrupted their bark yet.
The "King Maple" with its residence fit a raccoon family

Our oldest Sugar Maple, referred to as the King Maple, is estimated to be over 200 years old. The massive low branches on its trunk indicate that it has been bordering an open field from an early point in its life. So in other words, the forest had already been cleared at the time that this tree was just starting out. Originally growing in a thin hedgerow, its lower limbs readily found a supply of light for its leaves, and they were never naturally pruned by close competition with neighboring trees. If it had grown under normal forest conditions, its trunk would've reached 50 feet or more before branching out. This tree, like many Maple trees of its age, has developed large cavities in its trunk. They are caused by the tree’s heart-wood rotting away. Likely, over the decades, thousands of animals have sought refuge in such an expansive cavity.
Bob Williams stands next to an ancient maple near Paris NY
The fact that they could be utilized for maple syrup production was added incentive to spare some of these border and near-border maple trees. A few miles south of our Preserve, I recently visited a group of ancient Sugar Maples that were truly remarkable specimens. All were similar to our King Maple, but some had even greater trunk diameters.The circumference of the largest tree is 12 feet, 4 inches.
Undulatum Asperatus over Spring Farm
The phenomenon lasted for several hours
The other day, it looked a bit like someone had turned the world upside down. A fascinating cloud formation that resembled large ocean waves had developed over our region. At Spring Farm and around the area people were busy taking pictures of it. The cloud formation is called Undulatum (waves) Asperatus (roughed), and they are most often a consequence of cold air meeting warm air, or dry air meeting moist air. They are occasionally seen following a thunderstorm. Some have referred to these clouds as a sign of a coming apocalypse, so you had best all be on the lookout for that.

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