Sycamore Trees Line the River

Here we are anticipating the arrival of Spring-like weather. Late winter snows have covered the ground, but the sun that is stronger now is having an easier time melting the cold, white stuff. Snow has pulled away from the buildings yet there are still a couple of inches with a hard crust laying all along the ridge tops. Mountain ridges, that is.

Down in town, literally, there’s no snow to be found at the level of the Juniata River in Millerstown about 300-400 ft. in elevation. Mountain ridge tops in the area are typically 800-1200 ft. in elevation so they’re a few degrees colder at this time of year.

Flower blooming, which a lot of us use to judge that it really finally IS spring, may differ by some days when comparing sites with a few hundred feet difference in elevation. The only way to know what’s blooming out there is to go and look.

I was curious to see if skunk cabbage was blooming down near the river so I took a walk at the Millerstown Area Community Park. Photos were taken there on 15 March 2013. Up and down the park I walked but I didn’t spot one little hood poking its head out of the ground.

There’s been a lot of activity with respect to improving this area park, like asphalting walking paths, installing park benches, and erecting an amphitheater. I wondered if the land near the river was groomed because I swear that I saw skunk cabbage there years before. So, that will be a topic for another post.

Sycamore trees by the river.
Sycamore trees by the river.

Finally, I did see one of my favorite trees and that was worth the ride. Actually, several American Sycamore trees were standing tall right next to the river.

The American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, is a have-to-be-near-water kind of tree. It’s tolerant of poorly draining soil, meaning it can have its roots stay wet. American sycamores are found in the eastern United States, especially near streams and rivers and their flood plains.

Why do I like sycamores? Their angular leaves are huge and immediately identifiable, their seed balls break open to release a whole bunch of seeds that travel on the wind, and they have really funky-looking, unique bark.

Light smooth spotted bark of the sycamore tree.
Looking up a sycamore tree with its light, smooth spotted bark.

The bark of the sycamore peels off in sheets and pieces to reveal white patches of the inner bark. The overall feel and look of this tree’s bark is smooth and it appears splotched with shades of grey. The light-colored bark helps to identify this tree from a distance. Note the half-dozen sycamores in the upper photo. Knowing this little factoid can help one find water because that’s where the sycamore grows – near water.

Serviceberry Trees Bloom at Woods Edge

Serviceberry trees are one of the first flowering trees in North America. Their white flowers shine bright from the edge of the woods. When I see these flowering trees I know its time to look for Spring Ephemeral flowers.

(Click any photo to see a larger image.)

Flowering serviceberry tree at the edge of a field.
Flowering serviceberry tree in a stand of trees at the edge of a field. Photo taken 5 April 2012.
Serviceberry tree flowering among maples and oaks just leafing out.
Serviceberry tree flowering among maples and oaks just leafing out. Photo taken 5 April 2012.
Flowering serviceberry trees along a Pennsylvania country road.
Flowering serviceberry trees along a Pennsylvania country road. Photo taken 5 April 2012.

Serviceberries, also known as Juneberries, will be in leaf a couple of weeks after their white blooms are in view. The flowers develop into small berries that ripen in June, hence the name Juneberry.

The tree canopy is coming in fast now that it’s the third week of April. We are surrounded by trees where we live in the middle of the woods and right about now the trees seem to be closing in on us. During the winter we can see far into the woods, but now with the greenery growing bigger the view is getting blocked near the forest edge.

Heard baby bluebirds in their bird house yesterday. The parents have been frantically flying to and fro feeding the little guys peeping in there. Their activity must have caught the eye of a hawk because I saw one on the ground about five feet from the birdhouse. Didn’t see the strike to know if the broad-winged hawk got a bluebird for lunch, but he flew away without anything in his talons.

Bluets, violets and fairy wings continued to be beautiful this past week. The flowering trees were impressive everywhere! Pink and white dogwoods, ornamental flowering cherries and crabapples, light purple redbuds, and even the yellow balls of sassafras flowers brought many smiles this past week.

Windy Spring Weather Brings Down Pine Tree

Spring weather always keeps us guessing. Will it get warmer today so I can open the windows or will I have to bring in more wood for the furnace? Can I go take pictures outside or will the wind make that a useless adventure?

Besides the Spring rains there are always some freak winds that come up the valley or across the mountains that ends up toppling a few trees here and there. The night of the 17th was terribly windy with some real gusts. Not sure how strong as far as miles per hour, but the trees were really swaying. The wind gusts made a wild noise sweeping through the trees. It was eerily quiet in between the gusts.

I was at Little Buffalo State Park the next morning and wasn’t too surprised to run into a DCNR employee with a chainsaw in hand. I got a few pictures of a rather large white pine that was taken down by some stiff wind. We’re very lucky that more damage wasn’t inflicted on the Clay Covered Bridge. Maybe a few shingles were lost, but the damage could have been a lot worse!

Toppled tree at the end of Clay Covered Bridge.
Toppled tree at the end of Clay Covered Bridge.
White pine toppled by wind gust.
White pine toppled by wind gust.
Tree rings of large white pine tree.
Tree rings of large white pine tree.

This white pine was at least 55 years old.

Sap is flowing from the outer rings of wood on this felled white pine tree.
Sap is flowing from the outer rings of wood on this felled white pine tree.

The sapwood released its watery contents in the areas that were damaged. When the tree was felled and cut, its vessels that transport water and nutrients were broken, and so, the sap bled out of the wood.

Felled white pine tree just misses the Clay Bridge.
Felled white pine tree just misses the Clay Bridge.

Nice straight trunk, maybe nice enough to be sold for board content.

In our woods we see trees that are damaged by weather every year. Some are just old trees, but others were probably damaged first by insects and then brought down by the wind.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Redbud Trees Flower Purple at the Edge of the Woods

Close up of flowers of Redbud Tree(Cercis sili...
Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite trees bloomed beautifully this year. The weather cooperated to stay chilly during the blooming period for the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis. The redbud is native to the eastern US and as the Peterson Eastern Trees Guide tells us, Central Pennsylvania is the redbud’s northern-most limit.

I delight at seeing the redbuds each spring at the edge of the woods, peaking out with their rosy purple blossoms. Perhaps its the time of year – Happy Spring.

Redbud flowers arise directly from the stems. From a distance the blossoms appear to follow the lines of the tree. The result is a purple outline of many of the tree’s branches. Nice thin lines.

I think the redbud was probably the tree that made me realize that wild trees flower and can be beautiful doing so.

The flowering redbuds stand out where the corn field meets the woods at the base of the ridge. I look for them every Spring, but I’m sure that quite a few people zip down the highway without noticing them. Sad, don’t you think? Stop and smell the roses, people!

Redbud trees blooming at the woods edge.
Redbud trees blooming at the woods edge. Photo taken 10Apr2010.
Redbuds flowering in Pennsylvania.
Redbuds flowering in Pennsylvania. Photo taken 13Apr2010.

The redbuds flowered from at least the 10th, and probably a couple days before that, through the 23rd of April when some trees were noticed with leaves coming out. Rain on 24-25 April probably took down a lot of spring tree blossoms.

It’s hard to pin down the flowering times or blooming times of spring flowers. From year to year differences in weather patterns will dictate the blooming times of at least some of the Spring ephemerals.

We live in the Ridge and Valley Province of Pennsylvania, where you can change elevation in a matter of feet. Since elevation plays a role in temperature, it will also play a role in blooming times. From certain vantage points you can watch the tree leaves emerge in turn as you go up the mountain. In town, which is some 200 feet below our place on the ridge, plants can flower a week ahead of ours…forsythia, dogwood, azalea are examples from the past couple of weeks.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]