We saw this large Sitka spruce, Picea sitchensis, tree at Fort Clatsop, Oregon. This is where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent a long, wet winter in 1806. Lewis noted how this tree was commonly 27 feet in girth, with some trees reaching 36 feet around. This tree’s height averages 125-180 feet, and may reach over 250 feet. Sitka spruce can live up to 800 years.
Indigenous people used parts of spruce trees in several ways. Roots and cedar bark were woven into baskets and hats. The pitch was used as a varnish, to waterproof canoes, and chewed like gum. Various parts were used to treat diarrhea, constipation, and back aches. Sitka spruce was thought to possess “mystical powers and provided protection against evil thoughts.”
The tree’s fine-grained wood is both strong and lightweight. It is used in turbine blades, aircraft, sailboats, racing sculls, and oars. its unique qualities also make it a favorite in making musical instruments, including guitars, harps, violins, pianos, and flutes created by Native Americans.
“Monkey tree can’t pinch me!” I remember saying that as a kid every time we drove past one of these odd trees on the way to our grandparents’ house. We would try to be the first one to pinch our siblings before they could pinch us. Did anyone else play that game?
Monkey puzzle trees, Araucaria auracana, are native to Chile and Argentina but grow well in many parts of the world. In their native habitat, they grow to a height of 100-130 feet, but in gardens in North America mature at 30-40 feet.
Their common name originated in 1850 when Charles Austin, who was visiting a friend’s garden in England, remarked, “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.” Those triangular leaves have sharp edges and tips!
This paperbark maple, Acer griseum, was growing in the Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon. This tree grows to a height of 20 – 30 feet.
TheGardenWebsite.com refers to paperbark maples as a “hardy, tough and well-behaved tree.” Their peeling, cinnamon-colored bark is beautiful throughout the year.
The species name, griseum, refers to the grey color on the underside of the leaves. In the fall, the leaves turn various colors of red, orange, and yellow. This maple produces distinctive winged seeds are known as “samaras” or “helicopters.”
On a recent trip to the Oregon coast, I was impressed by the contorted shapes of shore pines along the shorelines. The scientific name of this tree is Pinus contorta var. contorta. It’s a very fitting name.
Some shore pines are barely attached to rocky cliffs. This common tree of the coast tolerates salt spray and a wide variety of soils.
High winds are common near the shorelines and they sculpt these lovely trees into interesting shapes.
Others grow in 40-50 foot tall forests, constantly buffeted by the wind.
These resilient trees have adapted to living in a challenging environment. They twist and turn in an effort to find the best ways to survive.
When I’m out walking among the aspen eyes early in the morning, I always feel like somebody’s watching me. While Michael Jackson was referring to his fans or the paparazzi with those lyrics, I’m referring to the eyes of nature. These aspen trees watch over me, always making sure I’m safe. My many-eyed guardians are beginning to leaf out with their distinctive fluttering leaves.
For more than 25 years our family camped in a place we called “The Meadow” in northeastern Washington state. Though this site didn’t have luxuries like running water or restrooms, it was a peaceful retreat.
The first three pictures show different views of The Meadow. Stands of aspen and mixed conifers border the large grass meadow. This site is at an elevation of around 4,500 feet and hosts a wide variety of wildlife including three kinds of grouse, moose, deer, bear, cougar, and probably wolves. I had a memorable experience one day when a great gray owl drifted over me on its whisper quiet wings.
The next three photos show a couple of our pets from the past and a pest. Can you see the chipmunk silhouetted on the pine tree trunk? The chipmunks and camp robber birds would steal food right off your plate if you weren’t watching. In another picture you can see our dog, Keyah, walking in front of a place we called “Big Rock.” The kids loved climbing on top of this massive boulder. The other picture shows our dog, Leto, resting in front of the campfire. This boulder was a perfect backdrop for our fires.
I saw this “it’s a boy” pine tree along the trail to Big Tree, the largest ponderosa pine of its kind, in LaPine State Park, Oregon. I may have walked right past this odd tree, but I noticed two teenage boys laughing loudly and pointing at it. They took multiple pictures to share with their friends. Their reaction to it was almost as funny as the tree itself! 😀
This larch in waiting photo shows one of their tiny cones up close. The western larch needles turn gold in the fall before dropping. The pompom needle clusters in this photo were just beginning to turn. This unique tree is one of my local favorites.
These bonsai trees in the Portland Japanese Garden were living works of art. We visited the garden in mid-October, when the colors of autumn were beginning to put on their show.
The first tree is a Japanese maple and it’s 35 years old. This variety’s foliage changes from green to shades of golden-yellow and red. This maple’s reddish bark intensifies in color over the winter months.
The second tree is a vine maple and it’s 75 years old. This type of maple is common in Pacific Northwest forests. Those growing in shade tend to have yellow fall color, while those in direct sunlight are more likely to turn orange and scarlet.
The third tree is a trident maple and it’s 30 years old. This maple is native to China, Korea, and Japan. It gets its name from its three-lobed leaves.
These streets lined with gold are along the highway east of Mount Hood in Oregon. I was there a week ago and the colors were spectacular!
The golden leaves along this road are mostly on aspen and larch trees. Larch is a deciduous conifer. Yes, most conifers keep their leaves through the winter–not the larch. See my post Western larch – A beauty in gold for more about these trees.
We also saw pops of red from the vine maples growing along this route.
These western juniper trees near the shore of Prineville Reservoir were rooted in the past. After many years of fluctuating water levels, their roots became exposed. The red volcanic soil here stands out in strong contrast with the deep blue sky and green foliage.
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!