Posted by: atowhee | January 25, 2015

THE LEAF IN WINTER

Having grown up in the Midwest where winter is leafless and only “evergreens” are ever green, I am still enthralled by broadleaf evergreens on the Pacific Slope.  In mild coastal California there are the native liveoaks, imported acacia and eucalyptus.  This far north in southern Oregon we still have the manzanita, kinnikinnick ,Oregon grape, mad plus and wild honceysuckle.  But our only broadleaf evergreen TREE is the admirable madrone.  Tree of red silken skin and long-burning fire fuel, of dense yet fragile timber, of slow drying and long-lasting furniture wood.  The Pacific madrone is the only widespread of the three North American madrones and it has stringent requirements for where it deigns to grow.  It will tolerate an integrated neighborhood with scraggly white or blue oak, Doug-fir and even redwoods.  The underbrush is often manzanita.  It will not tolerate a lot of fuss about its base, nor too much water from humans.  It generally wants to be left alone.  Its roots may support a parsitic population of ground cones.  One tree planter I know has had to very carefully limit when and how he waters his young madrones as he re-forests a south facing hillside here in southern Oregon.  Too much of a good thing would prove fatal to his trees.  They need hard soil and hard sun. mAD ABOVEmad plusHere,  below you see the on-going madrone dermatology treatment: constant shedding.  Most of us living creatures shed our outer layers one way or another: Scales fall or are shed, feathers molt, skin flakes off, dog or cat fur sneakily forms hair balls behind the sofa.  The madrone bark is in a never-ending process through the life of the tree.  The outer, older bark peels back leaving a fresh, smooth rusty new bark beneath. On a very hot summer day you can stand near a madrone and hear the outer bark crack, krinkle and roll into tiny parchment rolls, making a soft sound like a small wood fire.  Most other trees need the help of wind to give voice, the madrone sings an unacccompanied summer solo in the forest.MAD BARK2    MAD-BARK mad-skin mad-sky mad-sky2BARE OAK1Here are some of the neighboring white oaks, bare of leaf.  Their only green is the soft moss on trunk and limb.  Smaller branches are festooned with pale lichen clumps making the tree appear fuzzy against the blue winter heavens. BARE OAK2


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