Trees die for a variety of reasons: they can be deliberately killed by humans wielding chain saws, axes or back hoes. They can be eaten alive by biological 'pests.' Or they can die from generally unfavorable environmental conditions. I've been travelling in the Southwest for the past few weeks and have found myself drawn many times to the beauty of a tree whose life was claimed by lack of water and/or extreme heat. A few of them are in the pictures above. Top left was taken at Natural Bridges National Monument, bottom left was taken at Canyon de Chelly.
I find these trees 'beautiful' on two levels: one, the 'nobility' I can read as their life story as they struggled to maintain their lives in the face of extreme adversity leading to death and, two, the abstract visual beauty they exhibit after their deaths. I believe Georgia O'Keeffee was drawn to skulls and bones bleached and scoured by the wind and sun of the New Mexican plains in a similar way. About her depiction of the bones in her painting, "Cow's Skull with Calico Roses," she said "To me they are as beautiful as anything I know."
Trees, so beautiful while living, retain a graceful beauty after death as well.
Live oaks are not 'true' evergreens because they do lose their leaves immediately before new ones comes out in spring. Those leaves are shiny on top and pale gray on the underside. They can live for hundreds of years. The "Angel Oak" on Johns Island (just outside Charleston, SC) is estimated to be 400-500 years old and has a 28 foot circumference. The "Cleveland Oak" on Avery Island, Louisiana is about 300 years old with a 23 foot circumference. [Pictured below is the Cleveland Oak, visited by President Cleveland in 1891.]
Live oaks are native to the Southeastern part of the United States. They can be found in the extreme southeast of Virginia, along a thin strip of coast in the Carolinas, the southern 1/4 of Georgia, all of Florida, about half of Texas and a strip along southern Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Live oaks are often hosts to Spanish moss, ball moss, mistletoe and Resurrection ferns. [Pictured below are close ups of Live Oak bark.]
When I used to drive past trees in the Spring and saw them colored so beautifully, I used to assume those colors were due to buds and flowers. Lately I have been looking more closely -- and have discovered that much of what I used to perceive as flowers are actually 'samaras.'
Samaras are technically known as 'winged achenes' which means they are composed of a bit of papery tissue attached to a dry fruit containing a seed. These samaras are dispersed by the wind. They are also known as: wingnuts, helicopters, whirlybirds and whirligigs.
In my ignorance, I also thought that the only types of trees to produce samaras were maples. They are also produced by elms, ash and bushwillow trees. Apparently the samaras of the Siberian Elms are edible, but I don't intend to try them any time soon.
On a related note, I called these winged seeds "samsaras" for years. Until today, actually. But I think it is worth sharing that the word "samsara" is used in the Hindu and Buddhist belief systems to mean the cycle of of death and rebirth. Which seems somehow fitting for these flying seeds of the trees which throw their fates to the winds in hopes of rebirth.
It has been less than a year since my book, These Trees, was published in June 2017. It has been an extremely busy time since then for promoting and distributing this book of tree photos and poems.
The first store to carry THESE TREES was A Walk In The Woods in Hendersonville, NC. Today a TENTH store, Highlands Books (Brevard, NC) began carrying the book. The other eight places in North Carolina you can buy the book in-person are: Asheville -- Malaprop's Bookstore, Mountain Made Gallery and NC Arboretum; Belmont - Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden; Pisgah Forest -- Cradle of Forestry (near Pink Beds); Morganton - Burke Arts Council; Tryon - Tryon Painters & Sculptors and Tryon School of Arts and Crafts.
The book can also be purchased on Amazon.com The bookstore on this website will be closed April 12 - July 1, but will reopen on July 2.
Many, many thanks to all of you who have helped to make this 'valentine to the arboreal world' a success.
Photos from top left: Dogwood, Japanese spurge, Koko wood, ???, Red Horse Chestnut and far bottom right Tulip Poplar. All photos taken at South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University in South Caroilna.
Notice the ??? for the beautiful 'twinned' pine tree? It is ??? because it was not labelled. It was particularly galling to me not to have a tree identification for this specific tree because it DID have a plaque at its base, a METAL plaque, a rather expensive looking plaque commemorating Frederick Thone and including a portrait of the man. But nary a scrap of information as to the identity of the tree!
I don't expect recreation parks to have identification tags on their trees. But when a site holds itself out as a botanical garden and/or arboretum and a tree this splendid and this close to the paved road goes unidentified it really irks me. Yes, I did ask a staff person about the tree, showed him the photo on my iPhone. He was able to confirm that the tulip poplar was indeed a tulip poplar -- but didn't know anything about this pine.
Tree identification is NO picnic in general. When I was making my book, These Trees, I sat down with a forester and a botanist and they book just shook their heads over most of the photos I had and were unable to identify them. Apparently bark is an unreliable clue to tree identity. This is why I strive so diligently to find identification markers for trees where I am taking their picture. Because I am just fooling myself if I think I will be able to do it later at home.
I want to take a moment here to commend Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden near Charlotte, NC for their tree identification. Not that they have every tree identified with a tag. But because they have business cards made up including an email address that you can send a photo to for help in tree identification. I sent them three photos last month and they identified all three. Thank you!!! I wish all botanical gardens offered this service!!!
The calendar said it on March 21. The vernal equinox said it on the 20th. But the weather kept saying, "not yet!" Finally, here in North Carolina, the weather is also saying "Spring is here!" I took these photographs last week at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, NC. (upper left is a Japanese flowering apricot, upper right is a dwarf peach, bottom left is Prunus persica, and bottom right is a yellow azalea.
It is still way too early to think about planting flowers. But not too early to take Anne Lamott's resolution and make it my own, "I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen."
I hope you will get a chance to do that too.
The phrase "made in the shade" implies that someone has accomplished something without much effort and can sit back and enjoy him or herself "in the shade." For those of you with your tape measures and graph paper, plotting out plans for your landscape I would suggest that you plan to include some shade in your landscape, rather than give it all over to sun-loving flowers and shrubs.
Some of us need no convincing to plant and/or preserve the trees already on our property. They please the eye and calm the spirit. But for those who might need a little persuading to landscape around their trees, rather than removing them, there are some tangible benefits of shade trees that have actually been quantified. These include: (1) lower utility bills because properly placed shade trees can cool houses by 20 – 45 degrees during peak temperature periods. This translates into reduced air conditioning costs, (2) cleaner air because trees absorb carbon dioxide and other air pollution; the U.S. Forest Service estimated trees removed 26,000 tons of air pollution in one year in the Greater Kansas City area and, possibly, (3) a decrease in crime. A 12% decrease was found in an area with increased tree canopy in a study done by the University of Vermont. (4) It is also quite likely that an increase in trees in a neighborhood will improve home values. In Portland, Oregon homes on streets with lots of trees sold for $7,130 more than other similar houses without similar shade cover.
So please think about SHADE when you are dreaming about beautifying your yard. As Jane Austen wrote, “To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdue is the most perfect refreshment.”
And if you have a yard without any shade trees, and your climate and soil can sustain them, I suggest planting some. Then you, too, can have it "made in the shade" on a hot summer day.
I took a pruning class at Bullington Gardens taught by John Murphy this week. It was a great class with lots of demonstrations on trees so that we could see what he was talking about. While one class does not an expert make, here are a few tips I learned in this class:
+ Japanese maples -- remove the branches heading towards the middle of the tree, or rubbing on another branch. Remove all dead branches.
+ Angled cut? Use an 'angled cut' for roses, but for tree branches use a 'straight cut.' The angled cut will crush the branch and the tree will need to expend energy to heal it.
+ Rhododendrons -- Do NOT prune them during the winter! They should be pruned immediately (within three weeks) after they stop blooming. Use a three year cycle and prune about 1/3 of the shrub each of those three years. Ever wonder about the branches that look 'dead'? If you prune a dead looking branch and it has 'root rot' (you can tell by the way the the inner part of the cut branch looks) be sure to wipe your pruning blades with alcohol before you cut another branch or you will transfer the root rot from one branch to another.
+ Painting after pruning -- this old practice of painting over the 'wound' of a pruned tree should NOT be done.
+ When pruning a branch you should not cut down to the trunk itself, but rather to the 'collar,' keeping the collar intact. [ Wikipedia provides a good explanation of a branch collar: A branch collar is the often visible swelling in a woody plant that forms at the base of a branch where it is attached to its parent branch or to the tree's trunk. The top of the branch collar consists of dense interlocking wood grain.] Collar on cherry tree shown below.
For those of us who are "smitten" with the beauty of tree bark, January and February are great months to visit a botanical garden! Above are just four of the delightful tree barks I saw today at Hatcher Garden in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
This garden, lovingly crafted by Harold and Josephine Hatcher, stands on neglected and eroded land that the Hatchers began rehabilitating in 1969. Today this little 'gem' of a garden (10 acres) is a non-profit with four paid employees and scores of unpaid volunteers. Admission to this woodland garden is free and handicap accessible. There is a meandering stream, a waterfall, several small bridges, lots of trees, understory and flowers. It is open every day from dawn until dusk.
Hatcher Garden is located at 820 John B. White Sr. Blvd., Spartanburg, SC. For more info see their website: www.hatchergarden.org
Edgeworthia chrysantha (Paper bush) flowers gave a sweet scent to the air (left) and hydrangeas (right) were budding out.
Ruthie photographs trees because she loves them.
April 16 - June 25
Solo show of tree photographs at
301 N. Washington St.
August 3 - August 29, 2018
Tryon School of Arts and Crafts -- 373 Harmon Field Rd. Tryon, NC
August 7, 2018
Noon - 1pm "First Tuesday"
speaker "For Love of Trees."
Ruthie will present an audiovisual show of photos, music, poems and anecdotes relating to trees.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
6500 S. New Hope Rd.
August 22 from 2 - 3
Poemscapes: These Trees
Fusion of tree photographs with poems about trees. Photographer Ruthie Rosauer will share stories about some of her favorite trees.
301 N. Washington St.
October 13 from noon-4
Mountain Made Gallery
November 16 - 18
"Tis the Season"
Holiday Fair at
David Event Center
761 New Boyleston Highway