Spooky trees.

SPOOKYTREES

 

This was taken looking up at a wooded area that had been partially clearcut to make room for an apartment complex (I took the picture from the parking lot, looking up a steep hill toward the forest).   New plants and shrubs hadn’t had a chance to take root in front of the trees, so you found yourself looking deep into the forest.  Behind the pale trunks the dark green depths appeared almost black.  Adding to the creepiness was the fact a thunderstorm was about to start.

ETA:  I iked this enough I decided to make it the new blog cover photo.   It was time for a change.

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Spring in the mountains.

These three gorgeous pictures capture the Blue Ridge in April.   These photos were taken from about 3,000 feet.

I wasn’t lucky enough to get the flowering dogwoods or many other flowering trees (most have turned green by now).

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Sunday drive to Mount Mitchell.

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I had to get out of the house yesterday and clear my head.  I’ve been very upset about the situation with the children at the border.

Nature usually calms my soul and centers me, so in spite of the iffy, partly cloudy weather, I took a drive to Mount Mitchell State Park, about 50 miles to the north from where I live.   Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountains (eastern flank of the Blue Ridge) and at 6,683 ft is the highest mountain on the East Coast (Mount Washington in New Hampshire is the second highest, at 6,289 ft).

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It was noticeably cooler at the summit, almost sweater weather.  That high up, only conifer trees can grow, and the area is known for its Frasier firs, a species known only to this area that almost died out about twenty years ago due to an aphid infestation.  There are still many white skeleton-looking trunks of the trees that died off, mixed with the newer trees, giving the area an eerie but interesting look.

I took these photos.  Hope you like them.

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What is crown shyness?

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“Crown shyness” is a real term that means the pattern a canopy of trees make against the sky.   They seem to avoid touching, which is responsible for the pattern.

One theory is this is due to branches rubbing against each other and then breaking off, leaving the jigsaw-puzzle like patterns.  Another theory is that the growing tips are sensitive to levels of light, and stop growing as they near the branch tips of other trees.

They’re better at maintaining good boundaries than humans are!

I never noticed tcrown shyness before, but now I’ll be looking for it whenever I walk in a forest or under a grove of tall trees.

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Photos not taken by me.  Credit: unknown.

Flowering trees.

We had a cold snap here over the weekend (and a little snow too) and I was afraid it would kill the blooms on the trees, but I guess it wasn’t cold enough because they still look great.   Here’s a couple of pictures from today.

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A reflective trip into our common past.

My son said he’s spent today feeling reflective and wanted to revisit some of the places he knew as a child, including the home he and his sister were raised in by us.   Compared to the last two days, which were fun and active, today was quieter and more reflective  for both of us. It was also very healing and put a lot of perspective onto things.

So we took the 20 minute drive to where he grew up, parked the car and just walked around looking (without trying to look too suspicious!)   Our old house has fallen into disrepair (I don’t know if anyone lives there) but back in 1993, just after we purchased the house, we planted some trees.

We had this nutty idea of importing 30 tiny Canadian redwood seedlings from a company in British Columbia, Canada.   I remember we had to wait a while for them even after they shipped, because first they had to pass some kind of inspection in Florida to make sure they were free of aphids and other microbes that they might have been carrying from outside the US.   I remember when we finally got the seedlings, I had to keep them in a tub for a few days to moisten and soften their roots before planting them.

Redwoods are not indigenous to North Carolina, but we did some researchh and found out the moderate humid climate here is actually conducive to their growth, which is why we took a chance on them.   Over the years most of the seedlings died, and when the house was finally sold (well, actually foreclosed on) in 2003, the next owners chopped most of the surviving redwoods (about 5 or 6 left) down.  I remember being so enraged by that.   At the time the doomed young redwoods were about 8-10 feet tall.

But there is one last survivor, a beautiful, majestic redwood that is now 30-40 feet tall and looks very much at home among the small grove of other large trees that were either non-existent or very small when we bought the house in 1993. Here is that redwood as it is today.   It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that twenty-three years ago it sat in my tub upon arrival encased in a root ball with a plastic bag tied around it.

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Closeup of the bark–beautiful, red and burled.

I got photos of the rest of the trees (the ones I was able to–I didn’t want to be caught trespassing), all so much bigger than they were in 1993 or even ten years ago.     Here’s a cherry tree that was very tiny, barely more than a sapling,  but is now a huge shady tree big and sturdy enough to support a tire swing.   When my kids were little, the tree was too small to climb, but they used to pick caterpillars from its bark and collect them in a bucket (to be released outside later, as per my instructions.)

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View of the property as it is today.  It was quite bare and almost treeless when we moved in.  You can see part of the house on the right.  The pink magnolia directly to the left of the house I planted there as a tiny seedling in 1996.

Here is a closeup of the magnolia:

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One of the many pine trees showing off its huge sturdy trunk:

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The tree pictured below was the only one that was already big when we purchased the property in 1993, but it’s at least twice the size now and wide enough at the bottom to make a perfect fort for kids to play under.  Hell, I used to go sit under that tree to escape from my then husband!  Sometimes I even read books under there.

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2 views of the remains of our old outbuilding.  The roof has collapsed.  My son and I are both attracted to the eerie beauty of abandoned buildings.  Seeing the shed we used to store our gardening equipment and other things in was a little bittersweet.  I didn’t dare go inside.

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A nearby “bamboo forest” growing behind the elementary school my kids attended.  It wasn’t there then.  Bamboo may be an invasive weed in this country because of its lack of natural enemies to keep its growth in check, but I find it beautiful.   I find the same to be true of Kudzu, which also grows here.

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Finally, a view of our old neighborhood from the top of a nearby hill:

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My son is flying back to Florida in the wee hours this morning.  I’m going to miss him, but I feel so happy we had such an amazing time together.

Tomorrow I’ll be able to return to blogging as usual.   I’ve been so busy the past few days that keeping up has been difficult.  I didn’t even have time to post a Monday Melody, but I promise there will be a new one this coming Monday.

I love spring!

It does wonders for my mood.

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Tree with ivy.

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I liked the look of this tree covered with ivy so I took a picture of it with my phone. I was standing directly underneath of it looking up, which makes its trunk look much bigger than it really is.

My favorite part about having a Smartphone is being able to take pictures whenever I want and having them immediately.  Instant gratification!

Staying grounded.

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Photo Credit: No I’m Not OK

Sometimes I feel ungrounded, dissociated. Sometimes I feel like a gust of wind could blow me into nonexistence. I was raised in a harsh, chaotic, abusive environment and was blown from there into a harsh, chaotic, abusive marriage. As a result, I never was able to form strong roots. But to be grounded in life, to be able to bend and not break, adapt but not lose yourself, remain strong even when the cold winter winds blow, you need those roots.

Strong roots may not be with your family of origin, who should have nurtured you so you’d grow them. That may not be possible. But it doesn’t mean you can’t develop them.

I read a post today that inspired me because of the incredible photographs of an old Ficus Macrophylla tree, a beautiful and majestic tree with roots that could probably withstand an earthquake. I mean, just look at those roots! It’s incredible the way nature can adapt to almost any condition. There are trees that live on the cliffs of coastal California that grow vertically because of the strong winds that constantly buffet them. The trees have grown to adapt to their harsh conditions. They have grown stronger because of them.

We can also grow stronger because, not in spite of, the harsh conditions we might have been raised in. We can take inspiration from the trees by grounding ourselves and knowing how strong we really are, and that will prepare us for almost anything life can throw at us.

Take a walk. Look at some trees. Become conscious of your feet on the ground, your connection with the earth. Meditate on these things and try to stay in the present. Don’t worry about the future or the past. Turn off all the noise in your head, even for only a few minutes a day, and just be, like the tree.

Do plants get cancer?

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A random thought popped into my head today. That happens to me a lot. I always find out interesting new things that way. I’m as curious about the world as a 6 year old. That can’t be a bad thing. I think I might post these questions whenever I get an answer because maybe someone else was wondering the same thing. Today I started to wonder if plants can get cancer. The answer is, yes, they can, but it usually won’t kill a plant. Popular Science explains why:

In animals, a tumor develops when a cell (or group of cells) loses the built-in controls that regulate its growth, often as a result of mutations. Plants can experience the same phenomenon, along with cancerous masses, but it tends to be brought on via infection. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, and insect infestation have all been tied to plant cancers. Oak trees, for example, often grow tumors that double as homes for larvae.

The good news for plants is that even though they’re susceptible to cancer, they’re less vulnerable to its effects. For one thing, a vegetable tumor won’t metastasize. That’s because plant cells are typically locked in place by a matrix of rigid cell walls, so they can’t migrate. Even when a plant cell begins dividing uncontrollably, the tumor it creates remains stuck in one place usually with minor effects on the plant’s health—like a burl in a redwood tree.

Plants also have the benefit of lacking any vital organs. “It’s bad to get a brain tumor if you’re a human,” says Elliot Meyerowitz, a plant geneticist at the California Institute of Technology. “But there’s nothing that you can name that’s bad to get a tumor in if you’re a plant. Because whatever it is, you can make another.”

Meyerowitz points to another difference between plant and animal oncology with regard to those redwood burls: “Instead of treating plant tumors by surgery and chemotherapy, we make them into cheesy coffee tables.”

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$3,200 for tree cancer on legs.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Popular Science.
http://www.popsci.com/article/science/ask-anything-do-plants-get-cancer