Ep. 4 From Soil to Tree, and Back Again
Written by Kenneth on November 15, 2021
Tree of the Week: Oregon White Oak
-Lobed simple leaves with a big rounded canopy when mature.
-Drop acorns every year as opposed to other oaks who drop in alternating years.
-Used in beer and wine barrels, it’s heartwood fills in the tubes that are used to transport water through the tree. This prevents decay.
-Can live up to 500 years and even more in some circumstances.
Life of a Tree
From a seed a tree sprouts from the ground. Different types of trees have different methods of creating this seed but it all results in a sapling popping out of the ground. Much of the success of a tree is determined in its sapling stages. Few survive the feasting of squirrels and deer, and those who do are hindered by their mothers canopy. This maternal relationship is what will help these new trees prepare for a long life. A mother tree has a thick canopy only letting 3% of light down to the saplings. This keeps the tree at a small height since photosynthesizing is limited in the shadows. This might seem counterintuitive but it is helping this young tree grow slowly and build a strong foundational core before shooting up into the canopy. You can see the devastating effects of fast growth in the second growth forests that are planted for harvesting. The forests that are made up of these trees have significantly less biodiversity, and the trees themselves are much more susceptible to fungal and insect attacks. These trees get cut when they’re roughly 100 years old, some sooner. Even if they weren’t cut, they wouldn’t survive as long as their old growth counterparts. Back to the saplings, once their mother falls they have a chance to shoot up with the new sunlight. Those who win become the new tree in the canopy. After a long fulfilling life of air cleansing, animal habitat, and carbon sucking (and numerous other ecosystem services trees provide) the tree is ready to be just as useful in death. A standing snag is still home to many animals such as the woodpecker. A tree’s usefulness doesn’t end there though. Once fallen, the carbon and nutrient packed wood starts the process of decomposing with the help of insects, animals, fungi, and other plants. A fallen tree can also be called a nursing log because of how many plants call this new fallen log their home. Eventually it becomes part of the rich forest soil.
Wohlleben, P. (2015). The Hidden Life of Trees. Greystone Books.
Thank you for listiening, tune in on Mondays from 11-12. Get ready for next week where we will discover the habitat within a snag forest. Also look out for the tree of the week, the Western Red Cedar.