This gigantic pine is Big Tree, AKA Big Red, the biggest Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa, ever recorded. It’s located in LaPine State Park, north of La Pine, Oregon. Though it lost 30 feet of its crown during severe storms, it is still the largest Ponderosa pine in circumference.
Here are some facts about this tree:
Circumference: 28 feet 11 inches
Height: 167 feet
Crown spread: 68 feet
Approximate age: 500+ years
Board feet: 25,000
LaPine State Park Manager, Joe Wanamaker, gave insights about Big Red in an article in the local Source Weekly. He thought it was spared from being logged due to evidence of fire damage. This may have affected the quality of the wood harvested. Wanamaker also pointed out this tree is growing in an ideal location where water tends to collect in the soil from the nearby Deschutes River.
A paved, ADA accessible, 1/4 mile trail leads to this unique sight. Foot traffic around this much-loved attraction caused soil compaction that threatened its growth. A protective fence was constructed around it in the year 2000.
In this map of the park, from Oregon State Parks, Big Tree is located in the lower right corner.
Whirlybirds up close on a maple tree in my High Desert yard. I have fond childhood memories of collecting whirlybirds from the ground and tossing them up into the air. Watching them helicopter towards the ground was cheap entertainment in those days.
This morning I was out taking pictures of the sunrise and noticed this baby bird among the berries. It was lucky to have landed in a place covered with a cushioning layer of western juniper leaves.
I looked up in the tree overhead and spotted the nest. An adult American robin perched nearby, completely motionless. I talked to it and got no response at all. I have read that birds sleep with one eye open but this one didn’t follow that theory.
When we placed the baby bird back in its nest, it squawked and that finally got the attention of its parents. I hope it stays in the nest and fledges with its siblings.
Robins like junipers because they provide shelter and food. In the fall, they and other thrushes eat as many as 220 berries in a day.
I saw this loop-de-loop lodgepole pine growing alongside Firehole Lake Drive in Yellowstone National Park. Everyone drove right past it but I had to stop and take its picture. I wondered what stopped it from going straight up. It figured out how to grow around obstacles and keep going in the right direction. A lesson for us all.
I watched the colors turning last fall on this fiery red oak tree in a local park in Bend, Oregon. This young tree doesn’t yet have the twisting branch structure of mature oaks, but those uniquely-shaped leaves are beautiful three seasons of the year.
One of my favorite local trees is the western larch, Larix occidentalis. This conifer tree is unique because it drops its needles in the winter. Before they litter the forest floor, the needles turn a distinctive golden-yellow color. They stand out from the deep green shades of surrounding trees.
They have a delicate, almost lacey, growth form. Look at these needles radiating out in little groups of 15-30 on this branch. They are softer and more flexible than some of their pine tree cousins.
A home for wildlife
A wide range of wildlife relies on larch for food and cover. Squirrels feed on the cones and cache the seeds for future use. Songbirds nest and forage in their branches. They are especially important to pileated woodpeckers. This tree is an important food source for several kinds of grouse. Large mammals forage on the needles as a last resort since they are not as tasty as other trees.
It’s time once again for fun with photos. Welcome to Photo Bloopers 4! This is what I do with pictures that don’t quite fit in or turned out weird looking. They needed a few words to make them more interesting. Hope they entertain you!
The mountain bluebird perched on the snag for a long time in a drenching rainstorm. While all the other birds sought shelter, he stubbornly remained on his perch. He wondered if it really was a bluebird day. The bird thought his brilliant blue plumage would attract a mate by reminding her of the sky on a sunny day. No such luck!