It’s jacaranda season and Los Angeles is abloom.
story via: The LA Times
We all know that trees dance, but have you ever thought about dancing with a tree? A ballerina from Vancouver thought about it, and went on to create Aeriosa, a vertical dance troupe that performs with trees.
Aeriosa is the only company in Canada specializing in vertical dance, in which performers spin and dance on cables from trees, buildings and mountains.
Julia Taffe is Aeriosa’s founder, artistic director and choreographer. Since 1998, she has choreographed more than 25 works for her company. She says dancing among the clouds is no big deal, adding that “fear is healthy.”
The key, Taffe adds, is to put safety first. Aeriosa works with a team of professional riggers. Before the Saxe Point show, the site will also be inspected by a “mountain safety specialist,” who will closely monitor the weather, rain or shine.
Taff has an interesting perspective and regards the trees as active partners whose needs must also be considered.
… she refers to it as an “interspecies” collaboration. Because trees are a living thing, Aeriosa takes care not to damage them — making sure not to snap branches or leave metal spikes.
“If we can’t do our work without damaging the environment, then we shouldn’t do it,” Taffe said. “Each tree is unique and you have to be able to respond to that with your choreography and your artistic vision.
I’ll pass on dangling from the top of a tree, but next time I’m in the forest I just might ask an appropriately sized tree for a waltz.
Story from The Times Colonist
I really wanted to see this performed, so I asked the YouTube and found this. It’s a beautiful form of dance.
Today’s tree is one you should admire from afar. Really far. In fact, don’t go anywhere near it because contact with any part of this tree could be lethal. Just ask Ponce DeLeon. Oh, wait, you can’t. Because he’s dead, and this is the tree rumoured to have killed him. It’s a Manchineel Tree, known in Spanish as arbol de la Muerte, literally “tree of death.” Its fruits are called la manzanilla de la Muerte, “little apple of death.”
You might be tempted to eat the fruit. Do not eat the fruit. You might want to rest your hand on the trunk, or touch a branch. Do not touch the tree trunk or any branches. Do not stand under or even near the tree for any length of time whatsoever. Do not touch your eyes while near the tree. Do not pick up any of the ominously shiny, tropic-green leaves. If you want to slowly but firmly back away from this tree, you would not find any argument from any botanist who has studied it.
An unfortunate radiologist took a bite while in the Caribbean, and she describes the experience for us.
I rashly took a bite from this fruit and found it pleasantly sweet. My friend also partook (at my suggestion). Moments later we noticed a strange peppery feeling in our mouths, which gradually progressed to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat. The symptoms worsened over a couple of hours until we could barely swallow solid food because of the excruciating pain and the feeling of a huge obstructing pharyngeal lump. Sadly, the pain was exacerbated by most alcoholic beverages, although mildly appeased by pina coladas, but more so by milk alone.
Over the next eight hours our oral symptoms slowly began to subside, but our cervical lymph nodes became very tender and easily palpable. Recounting our experience to the locals elicited frank horror and incredulity, such was the fruit’s poisonous reputation.
The tree is found throughout the Caribbean, Central America and into the northern part of South America. They live in clusters in coastal areas, and they rely on the movement of water to disperse their seeds. The tree is also found in south Florida, making it America’s deadliest tree.
The sap, white and milky, is spectacularly toxic; it causes burn-like blisters upon any contact with skin, and if you’re unfortunate enough to get it in your eyes, temporary blindness is highly likely. This sap is found throughout the tree, including in the bark and leaves, so, you know, don’t touch any of it.The specific toxins found in this sap and in the fruits remain partially unknown, but not unused. The aboriginal peoples of the Caribbean were familiar with the tree and used it for many purposes; the sap, in particular, was used to tip arrows. “It is believed that the Calusa used it in that manner to kill Juan Ponce de Leon on his second trip to Florida in 1521,” says Hammer.
Manchineel is a member of a family of plants known as the spurges. (The name comes from “purge,” because, although all these plants have toxic sap, the toxicity varies, and some can be used as a laxative.) Spurges are found worldwide, in various forms, ranging from tiny herb-like plants to large bushes and trees. Manchineel is one of the largest, reaching up to 50 feet in height, but despite its dangerous reputation is not the most famous—that’d be the poinsettia, the manchineel’s more festive cousin.
Story via: Atlas Obscura
In the small Palestinian village of Al Walaja, just outside Bethlehem, lives an ancient olive tree, that may be one of the oldest trees in the world. It has been carbon-dated to an age range of 3,000 to 5,500 years old and it is the job of one man, Salah Abu Ali, to protect it.
Ali wakes every morning to tend to his family’s orchard. Entering through a neighbor’s yard, he trots down the grove’s narrow paths in a way that belies his age, occasionally reaching down to quickly toss aside trespassing stones; briskly descending verdant terraces, one after another until he comes to the edge of the orchard. It is at this edge where Ali spends most of his day, pumping water from the spring above or tending to the soil. It is where he sometimes sleeps at night, and where he hosts people that have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But many come for the tree, an olive that some believe to be the oldest in the world.
The olive tree of Al Walaja, like all trees in the world, is under threat from climate change and is recovering from a recent drought. It is also under the added threat of Israeli expansionism.
But the olive tree of Al Walaja has become something else to its residents. Now, it’s a symbol of resistance. The village is a shadow of its former self. Most of the village’s residents were forced to flee their homes amidst heavy fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “In 1948, we came here and slept under the trees,” Ali says, as Israeli military personnel chant during drills in the valley below. After the dust settled and the demarcation lines were drawn, Al Walaja had lost around 70 percent of its land.
The town was further eroded after Israel captured the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then expanded the Jerusalem Municipality, annexing around half of what was left of the village.
More recently, Israel’s separation wall threatened to once again cut the village in two, isolating the Al Badawi tree. But residents won a court battle which saw the chain-link wall diverted around the village. The wall now stands just below Ali’s family orchard, separating the new village from the site of the old, just across a narrow valley.
Despite the court victory, dozens of homes have been bulldozed to make way for the Jerusalem Municipality. Al Walaja still sits isolated, hemmed in on nearly all sides by Israel’s separation wall and no longer able to access uncultivated farmland or many of the village’s once-famed springs.
It is because of these threats that Ali guards the ancient olive tree, and he considers it his life work to protect it. Ali now receives a small sum from The Palestinian Authority to take care of the tree, due to reports of Israeli settlers and soldiers cutting down and burning ancient olive trees in other parts of the West Bank.
According to the United Nations, approximately 45 percent of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip contain olive trees, providing income for some 100,000 families. “The Palestinians are attached to the olive tree,” Ali says. “The olive tree is a part of our resistance and a part of our religion. With the olive tree we live, and without it we don’t live.”
Story from Atlas Obscura
I found a few nature made pieces of wood art the other day while I was walking with Jack that I thought I’d share today. I’d prefer to share your tree photos, though, so now that it’s springtime, why not take your camera for a walk and grab some pictures of your local trees in bud or bloom. I think all of us would like to see the progress of spring in your part of the world, and I love reader submissions. Really, I do. Don’t be shy, our address is over there in the sidebar, underneath the colourful percolating head where it says email here.
David Milarch is a man on a mission, and his goals are ambitious. He is trying to save the Ancient Giant Redwoods and, in the process, save the planet.
Years of droughts and shifting temperatures have already driven these evergreen giants out of some coastal zones they once inhabited. The trees can live for as long as 2,000 to 3,000 years, but some scientists think, the way things are going, that they could disappear from California in a fraction of that time.
Milarch spends his days tracking down the heartiest coast redwood specimens he can find, cloning them in his own lab, and then planting them in carefully chosen plots where they can thrive, hopefully for millennia. One site is a new experimental bed in San Francisco’s Presidio, part of the U.S. National Park system. Milarch’s goal is both to strengthen the coast redwood gene pool with clones of the strongest individuals, and to store loads of climate-change-causing carbon—more than 1,000 tons per acre of redwoods, more than any other kind of forest in the world. It’s a complicated mission with a simple philosophy: Save the big trees, and they’ll save us.
Milarch is well qualified for the mission as are his two sons, both of whom assist him with the project and the foundation.
If you strike up a conversation with Milarch, you’ll get his life story inside of 10 minutes—from his motorcycle gang days in Detroit to the revelation that set him on his current path, involving a near-death experience, angels, and a disembodied voice that dictated a plan he wrote down in the wee hours of the morning. When he woke up fully the next day, he says, “There was an eight-page outline on that legal pad. It was the outline for this project.”
The angel who tapped Milarch for this mission seems to have picked the right person—not only is he an able tree-vangelist, but he is a third-generation shade-tree grower. His sons Jake and Jared, both of whom work for Archangel, make up the fourth. So he knows all the secrets of getting balky arborial species to reach their potential by locating the healthiest specimens, clipping and propagating them, and then nurturing delicate new trees.
It’s a long, complicated process that involves cloning and Milarch manages it all with an eye to the future. The saplings are nurtured with compost and drip-fed water when dry, and in time, Milarch plans to plant underbrush species that will not dominate the young trees. He also plans to selectively thin the trees as they grow, allowing the most dominant to take over.
It isn’t a cure-all for climate change, but it is an important part of the answer.
As University College London earth scientists Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis point out in The Conversation, reforestation is hardly a magic bullet against climate change. It can take centuries, even millennia, to have its effect, and that’s time the climate problem does not have. Some of the land areas earmarked for reforestation in the Science study may end up too hot for forests by the time people get around to planting them. “Reforestation,” Maslin and Lewis write, “should be thought of as one solution to climate change among many.”
Even if champion trees aren’t an answer by themselves, Milarch is determined to see them at least become part of the answer. If there’s anything worth being downright messianic about, he figures, it’s creating eternal groves of thousand-year-old, self-replicating giants that could benefit all humankind. “We have a list of the 100 most important trees to clone. We have our marching orders. We know where we need to go,” Milarch says. “I raise my hand every morning and I say, ‘Use me.’”
I don’t believe in angels, but whatever it was that sent Milarch on his quest, I’m thankful for it. If you’d like to know more about this vital project please visit The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive Website.
Story via: Atlas Obscura
Today’s tree photo was sent in by VBFF. It’s a picture taken by her niece Erin, who has given her permission for me to share it with you. Erin used the photo to make Christmas cards, and I think it captures the quiet, still, soul of winter and I hope you love it as much as I do.
Today’s tree story is about another victim of the cult of Greed. Developers, building artificial islands for luxury resorts, are buying mature coconut trees from farmers, but their removal and relocation has many people worried.
Kaashidhoo is one of the largest of the 1,192 islands that make up the Maldives archipelago, but unlike many other islands, it does not teem with sunbathing Europeans. Its broad dirt roads are often deserted, flanked by pink Maldivian roses, mango-orange impatiens, and papaya and banana plants. The main occupation of the islanders is cultivating coconut and other tropical produce that can be sold in Malé, the Maldivian capital.
But lately, the local economy has been thrown out of balance. Crater-like holes have begun to appear across the island, some filled with dry leaves and others left as barren pits. These bald patches are the places where mature coconut trees used to stand tall. In the last year, Kaashidhoo farmers have sold hundreds of trees to new luxury resorts on nearby artificial islands.
While some locals are grateful for the newfound income—$20 to $100 for each tree—others worry that beach erosion has intensified since the trees started getting uprooted. They see this as a fragile ecosystem threatened by the proliferation of luxury resorts. “It’s a huge issue,” says Ibrahim Naeem, Director General of the Maldives Environmental Protection Agency. “Importing coconut palm trees is prohibited in the Maldives, so they have to rely on residential islands.”
As time has gone on, environmental changes have set in.
Yet as the year went by, and more coconut trees disappeared, Jameel says that many locals grew concerned. Coral islands like Kaashidhoo are highly dynamic, constantly adjusting and dancing to the idiosyncrasies of wind, tides, and relentless waves. “Everyone has observed far more erosion around the beaches. That’s what we end up talking about most of the time,” Jameel says. In response, she joined a non-governmental organization called Young Leaders, to spread awareness about environmental issues on the island.
Also, once these areas are developed, locals are encouraged to stay away, and many of the benefits that they were promised from development have never materialized. Environmental groups are now co-ordinating campaigns to strengthen and enforce the laws, and they’re using the #mvtreegrab. I usually forget to Twitter, but today I will, and I’ll add that hashtag. There are plenty of pretty pictures with the story, so go have a look… if you can stomach another bad news story.
story via: Atlas Obscura
These photos of grass trees were taken by the friend of a friend who lives in Australia. She tells me,
While driving through the bushfire zone 12kms from the caravan park, I was delighted to see signs of regrowth…. (grass trees) are already sprouting green in the landscape that was so devastated just 6 weeks ago.
… you can read all about them at bushheritage.org.au. They are also a protected species and very expensive to buy from specialist nurseries – I’ve always wanted to have one in my garden! Best of all, grass trees are very resilient and able to survive any bushfire.
There is one last grove of California Giant Red Sequoia trees in private hands and like all forests in the Sierra Nevada area, it is at risk of damage from environmental pressures, including a heightened risk of fire. The grove is highly important and contains some of the oldest and largest trees on the planet. Nearly 500 of the trees are over 6 feet in diameter
Now, a California conservation group is beseeching the public to step up and fund the purchase of a huge grove of the towering trees. “It’s an awe-inspiring place,” says Jessica Inwood, Parks Program Manager for the Save the Redwoods League. “It’s the last, largest giant sequoia property left in private ownership.” One sequoia on the property, the Stagg Tree, is believed to be the fifth-largest tree in the world.
Though the sequoias do not burn as frequently as other trees in Californias, the league intends to reduce tree overgrowth in order to mitigate the damage of future fires. “With fire frequency and intensity predicted to increase due to climate change and with significant fuels accumulation in the forest, the ecosystem is vulnerable to severe fire damage,” Inwood says.
The fires are nothing new, but the warm conditions that foster them are becoming more frequent, and the vast fires that result are difficult to combat. “Drought in a warmer climate is a big threat,” says Roger Bales, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at the University of California Merced. “Also high-intensity wildfire, which is more likely with a warmer climate.”
The 530 acres, known as Alder Creek, currently belong to the Rouch Family, and they have signed a purchase agreement to sell the land and the trees to the Save The Redwoods League for $15 million. Now the group needs the public’s help in funding the purchase.
Story via: Atlas Obscura from September 2019.
I will add as a happy update that thanks to people from around the world, the Save The Redwoods League has met its fundraising goals and Alder Creek is now protected. If you’d like to know more about this non-profit organization and the vital work they do, they can be found here.
Minnesota was logging country in the late 1800s, and as a result, most of the state’s old-growth trees were cut down. At present, only 2% of trees in Minnesota’s forests are considered old-growth, but there is an extraordinary place known as The Lost 40, where the elderly giants survive en masse. It’s an area of 144 acres of pure old-growth forest, and its survival until now is due to a mapping error.
In 1882, a surveying and mapping error made loggers believe that the entire section of the forest was underwater, so they passed through it. This area, which is actually located in the Chippewa National Forest, was therefore never logged, and the trees that were growing then continue to grow now.
The tradition of leaving the Lost 40 untouched has remained, and the forest section is still thriving as a result. There is nowhere else in the Midwest like the Lost 40, since most of the trees in other forests are much younger than this swath of centenarians growing in the Midwest.
Story via: Atlas Obscura, where you can find more photos and a small map.
Meet Big Lonely Doug, one of the last old-growth trees left in Canada.
Big Lonely Doug—named after its species, the Douglas fir—stands tall among a clearing, a solitary specimen surrounded by stumps and logging debris. It soars about 230 feet high and its trunk is as big as a living room. Local conservationists estimate it to be between 750 and 1,200 years old.
Despite the region’s booming logging industry (a staggering 99 percent of the old-growth Douglas firs in British Colombia have been cut down) a logger spared Big Lonely Doug from being felled in 2012. No one is quite sure why this particular mature tree was saved. It turns out it is the second-largest Douglas fir in Canada.
Big Lonely Doug still stands tall, now a sad but majestic symbol of the disappearing old-growth forests of British Colombia, and the ongoing fight to save them.
You can visit Big lonely Doug, but you’ll have to hike the last 1.5 km to the site. He lives near Port Renfrew, B.C., and perhaps he’d like a bit of company, as long as you’re polite and respectful of his age and his home. There are more photos at the link below.
Story via: Atlas Obscura
Say hello to Canada’s knottiest tree. This massive cedar tree has a giant burl growing out of its lower trunk and lives in a grove that was discovered in 2009 and has been protected from logging since 2012.
This lush grove near Port Renfrew is filled with large western red cedars and Douglas firs. Many trees seem to be growing out of each other, with knots and burls as if there was a struggle to break free of their bark.
The highlight of the grove is Canada’s gnarliest tree, a massive cedar with a giant burl growing out of its lower trunk. This whimsical giant stands tall, overseeing the cathedral grove.
There are walking paths into the grove and visitors are welcome, but the paths can be slippery and difficult to navigate. There are more photos at the Atlas Obscura link below as well as a small map.
via Atlas Obscura