When I was a kid I was oblivious to trees in the winter. There were no bright green leaves to attract my attention. But now that I am "mature" I have come to appreciate the beauty of trees in the winter too. They are beautiful even without benefit of colorful holiday decorations. Sometimes Mother Nature even lends a hand to dress them up in snow and ice. Photo top left taken at Looking Glass Falls (Transylvania County, North Carolina, Pisgah Forest). Photo top right taken of a Japanese Stewartia at Bullington Garden in Hendersonville, NC. Photo of large oak in the snow was taken at Bullington Garden in Hendersonvile, NC.
Roots pictured above from left: Osage Orange tree roots in St. Louis Botanical Garden; middle and center both taken in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
In the English language we say that children need 'roots' as well as wings. We use the word 'roots' to denote the origin of something, as in the 'roots of jazz in New Orleans' or the 'roots of democracy.' We also use 'root' to cheer on our favorite sports teams. And we can never forget that our hair and teeth also have 'roots.'
For a tree, roots are essential for their very existence. Roots store food reserves during the winter. Year round they absorb and transport water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree. We never forget that they anchor the tree against wind. Yet for all their hard work they are largely ignored by us humans. Leaves are celebrated in the fall. A tree's fruits, flowers and nuts are celebrated in summer and fall. As far as I know, roots are never celebrated -- and I think they should be! Their shapes and patterns can be enchanting. Perhaps it is their lack of color that accounts for the lack of attention paid to them.
A general misconception is that most of a tree's roots are deeply buried and out of sight. Yet most tap roots are only 15 feet deep and 99% of tree roots are in the top 3 feet of soil; with the vast majority of those in the top 1.5 feet of the soil. This is because tree roots need oxygen to function and it is easier to access oxygen closer to the surface.
I am always amazed when I see tree roots living on hard rock, as in the photo in the top far right. They certainly get access to oxygen that way! And serve as a wonderful example to all of us about adaptability, flexibility and tenacity.
We went to the Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas last spring and were "underwhelmed" by the paucity of its offerings. The trees there were obviously not "second growth" but probably third, or even fourth "growth." So we searched around for greener pastures, so to speak, and found Garvan Woodland Gardens a mere 6 miles from Hot Springs. The drive itself is quite relaxing as it takes you through a lovely rural area.
The Garvan Woodland Gardens consists of 210 acres of land that were completely clearcut in 1915. In 1956, the owner began planting thousands of plants and trees. The result, in 2019, is beautiful. Admission for adults is $15 and you can ride the entire gardens in a golf cart for $15 per person. If I ever go back again I just might make use of that golf cart, especially to get out to the Hixon Nature Preserve on Lake Hamilton. The Garden owns 4.5 miles of shoreline on Lake Hamilton and as a result allows visitors a chance to see over 100 types of birds.
Pictured below is the beautiful Bridge of the Full Moon. This is located within the 4-acre Garden of the Pine Wind which has 300 varieties of Asian ornamental plants including 40 giant-flowered tree peonies. This "garden within a garden" also features a Koi pond, several little waterfalls and one that is 12 feet high. It must be spectacular to visit when the azaleas are in full bloom.
We were there in late April and there were only a few tattered blossoms still holding on. If you are hoping to catch the azaleas in full bloom check the "what's in bloom" feature on their website. An additional feature of these Gardens is the Anthony Chapel, which I thought was spectacular. The use of glass in the walls and the ceiling and its setting in the woodland creates a special blend of Nature and religion. The chapel can be accessed without paying the admission fee to the gardens. It is closed when a wedding is taking place.
Much appreciated by us was the fact that each person is allowed to bring in one dog to the garden as long as it is on a non-retractable leash. Located at 550 Arkridge Road, Hot Springs, Arkansas it is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and the month of January.
Everyone knows that a tree's leaves are responsible for photosynthesis. Except. Um. The new bark of the Gumbo-Limbo tree can also do photosynthesis! For about the first year of a new limb's life its bark is green, and during this time it can do photosynthesis. Then the bark turns red. Makes me wonder if there are other trees that are able to do this as well.
The Gumbo-Limbo tree goes by other names too: copperwood, chaca and turpentine tree. Tampa, FL is about as far north as its native range. It is native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Brazil and Venezuela. Its nickname in Florida is the "tourist tree" because its reddish bark is thin and easily flakes off -- similar to the sunburned skin of tourists. Its bark puts me in mind of "paper bark" trees such as the paperbark maple.
This tree is remarkable for its sturdiness. It can withstand hurricane winds, drought and is salt-tolerant. Its wood is easily carved and has been used for carving carousel animals. It can grow to 60 feet tall.
So where did it get its name? The sticky mud of the Mississippi delta is sometimes called 'gumbo' and the sap of the trip is also sticky, so perhaps there is a link there.
The Angel Oak tree may be the best-known and most-loved tree east of the Mississippi. It certainly is no stretch to say it is the best-known and most-loved tree in the Carolinas. I have given several talks and been in many shows these past two years showing my tree photographs. The one tree that people have mentioned to me repeatedly is the Angel Oak. They often mistake the photo on the cover of "These Trees" as the Angel Oak. The cover photo is actually of a Japanese Maple.
The Angel Oak tree is located on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Its age is estimated to be between 200 - 500 years old depending on your source. It is 66 feet tall and its shade covers 17,200 square feet. Interestingly its name derives from Justus and Martha Angel who owned it at one time -- not from any celestial being. The tree is now owned by the city of Charleston. Admission is free. It is surrounded by a tall gate so you'll need to visit during official visiting hours to get through the gate.
I had visited the Angel Oak, and photographed it, three times before the publication of my book. But I didn't use it in the book because, well, I found it difficult to focus on the tree and not all the signs all around the tree saying 'don't sit on this tree' and the signs, literally, attached to those signs saying 'do not move these signs.' (See photo below)
But I visited the Angel Tree again recently and realized that with a change of perspective I could enjoy the tree much more. The first picture with this blog is a close in of one section of the tree high above any of the annoying signs. It is my favorite picture of the tree. A picture including the signs is just above this text. This reminds me again of a good life lesson that changing your perspective can well change your view of life for the better. It doesn't mean you should ignore all the annoying things that distract you from the beauty of life -- but finding a way to focus on specific parts or areas may bring you joy.
There are two photos below this text, side by side. The one on the left is the Angel Tree (live oak) the one on the right is on the cover of "These Trees" (Japanese maple). It isn't the leaves that I notice with these trees, but rather the graceful curving of their limbs, or what I think of as their 'lines.'
Both exemplify the words of the poet Kahlil Gibran, "Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky."
Someone posted on Facebook that each day a forty foot tree takes in 50 gallons of dissolved nutrients from the soil, converts that into ten pounds of carbohydrates and releases 60 cubic feet of pure oxygen into the air.
I wasn't sure whether to be impressed or not. I mean, I have no idea how much oxygen I need to breathe each day. This might be a massive amount of oxygen in relation to my needs as a human, or it might be rather puny. So I did a little research and found an article by Luis Villazon in the BBC Focus magazine. According to this article, a human breathes about 9.5 tons of air in a year. Oxygen, however, is only 23% of the air we breathe (by mass) and we only take in about 1/3 of the oxygen that is available to us in the air of each breath. That means we need 740 kg of oxygen per year.
So, how many trees do I need to support my personal oxygen habit? According to Villazon's article I need 7 or 8 trees. Another article says I only need about two trees to produce my oxygen. But, of course, this depends on various other factors. Redwoods, aspens and oaks tend to produce more oxygen than other types of trees. But, THIS depends on where the tree is in its lifecycle as trees what are still growing produce more oxygen than trees who have reached their mature size.
As for the 'how' they produce oxygen, the scientists are in agreement on this: through the process of photosynthesis when trees take sunlight, add carbon dioxide from the air -- this produces oxygen. But it sounds like magic to me!
Above, from left: catkins on display, leaf catching the sunlight, trademark curly corkscrew of branches
I never noticed the 'walking stick' tree/shrub until a friend drew my attention to it yesterday. Obviously 'walking stick' is a misnomer as something so twisted wouldn't make good raw material for a walking stick. But the corkscrewing branches do add great interest to a winter landscape when the tree has lost its leaves.
The 'walking stick' has various names: contorted filbert, corkscrew hazel and Harry Lauder's walking stick. There is also lack of consensus as to whether it is a tree, a 'tree-like shrub' or a deciduous shrub. One point of agreement is that they all bear yellow catkins that start in late autumn and get bigger in the spring. This shrub, which can grow to 10 feet tall, is a relative of the birch and will thrive in sun or partial shade.
The leaves on most trees come and go depending on the season. Deciduous trees bear leaves that dazzle us with color and delight us with shapes. The flowers on some trees, horsechestnut and magnolia come readily to mind, provide us with their own delights -- but are short-lived.
When you are choosing trees for your property, you might want to give thought to bark for ornamental purposes. Bark, after all, will be there 365 days a year. A dependable source of texture and color. Some barks have a 'solid' appearance, akin to a wallpaper in the landscape. Other tree barks add interest because of the patterns created when they peel.
Trees with peeling barks include: crepe myrtle (some debate whether it is a tree or a shrub), Chinese quince, sycamore, eucalyptus, shagbark hickory, birches, aspens and Kousa dogwood. Within the category of trees with peeling barks are some of my very favorites -- the paperbarks. There are paperbark maples, river birch and Melaleuca(tea tree). I've had the pleasure of photographing several of these interesting barks (below).
Pictured above from left: Paperbark Maple, Paperbark Melaleuca, Eucalyptus
Here in beautiful western North Carolina, where I live, the leaves have not yet shown any inclination to change colors. This may be because the temperatures, until this week, have been in the 80s every day and the nights have not been cool enough to trigger color changes.
I haven't seen any wooly worms yet either -- those old timey prognosticators about winter. The rings on those black and auburn 'caterpillars' are supposed to forecast the severity of the upcoming winter. Maybe this warm autumn will spill
over to winter and we'll have a warm winter as well.
Right now we have been getting lashings of rain due to the hurricane -- several roads are closed, as are the schools, and an emergency shelter has been opened. All this is from rainfall as we don't live near a river. We also had the wettest July on record and the wettest August. Probably the wettest September on record as well, but I haven't seen the official record on that. So our ground was pretty saturated already.
I don't need to consult any of the woolly worm's kin to know all this ground saturation does not bode well for the plethora of mature trees around here. And I fear for them. I feel helpless to help out the trees, to dry out the soil a bit on their behalf. All I can do is fret and keep my fingers crossed -- and I know that isn't helping a darn thing.
Well, I can share a tree picture below of a Possumhaw tree I took at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina. The name 'possumhaw' made me smile and I hope it will make you smile too. So we can all stop worrying about the weather for a little while.
There's a new 'enchanted forest' and it is at the Tryon School of Arts and Crafts in Tryon, North Carolina. The centerpiece of the show is a towering tree made by Mary and Terry Dill. With 'enchanted forest' as a theme, sculptors, wood carvers, potters, photographers, painters and jewelry makers got to work on objects both realistic and imaginative. Hope Rodearmer created "fairy chairs," each one its own fanciful landscape. Kate Stockman fashioned a line of tree-themed jewelry. Others made gnomes, gnome houses, sculpted busts and even two dragons.
The show, which includes over a dozen of Ruthie Rosauer's tree photographs, runs until August 30.
Ruthie photographs trees because she loves them.
1 - 3pm
A Walk in the Woods
423 N. Main St.
Photographer and editor Ruthie Rosauer will be on hand to autograph copies of her book, THESE TREES. The book, a compilation of 140 trees photos paired with poems, has been described as "A gorgeous book, a heart-opening photo collection."