Friday, March 11, 2011

The Conifers.......

- After two periods of considerable rainfall in the last week, good to see the Tennessee sunshine today. Creeks are roaring. First saw the bloom of a Downy Serviceberry on March 3....the first of the blooming species in our local woodlands.
- Prior to the annual coming of the deciduous leaves to our southeast Tennessee mountains, thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to a few of our evergreen friends - the conifers.
- Collectively these species adorn our winter landscape with green color, and many outdoor lovers, as myself, find comfort and peace listening to the sighing of the wind cut by their needles.
- The species presented here play an important role in the ecosystems of the mixed Tennessee forest.
Top to bottom.....
1) The Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)....To 70'...cones 2"-3", needles in bundles of 2, no more than 3. Bark scaly in adults. Young specimens are full and vibrant, adults not so much. Adult trees, as the ones in the photos, often have a straight trunk devoid of limbs, until near the crown, which is often rounded. Similar species is the Loblolly Pine (P. taeda), which is more common south of our location. Both are important lumber trees.
2) Next two photos...The Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana). Common on the southern Cumberland Plateau, but not as aesthetically pleasing as the other species mentioned here. Often called the 'Scrub Pine', this tree is often found in clusters, as pictured. Branches are tough and fibrous, difficult to break. Cones are 2"-3". Needles in 2s. A 40' specimen is considered large.
3) Next two photos...The Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Nothing like it! These beautiful trees are common in areas of our mountain properties, and completely absent in others. Seem to prefer creek canyons and rocky slopes, though they can surive in other habitats. Needles short and relatively flat, less than 1", pale, almost white beneath. Cones, as pictured, are small, also less than 1". As a fuel, wood throws sparks. Twigs of young trees browsed by deer and rabbits.
4) Next two photos....Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). More common off the Cumberland Plateau, at lower elevations, but a few specimens dot our winter scape. To 50', 3-sided needle-like leaves. Fruits consumed by over 50 species of birds, including Mourning Doves and Bobwhites. Heartwood is aromatic, rose-brown in color. Adults often have bark that is scaly, shredded.
5) Bottom two photos...The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus). A tall stately tree, to 100'+, that is a favorite of landscapers and golf courses. The ONLY 5-needle pine in the eastern USA. Needles 2"-4", cones slender, 3"-10". Not as resinous as other pines, thus the great demand as a lumber tree for residential construction. Due to demand, virgin stands of this magnificent conifer are now rare, if not gone altogether, even in the northeast, where this species is abundant. For this reason, reforestation is common. Suscepitible to disease, especially some of the fungal variety.


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