Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 7, 2012. Klamath, California. Trees Of Mystery.

Another gray Pacific day.

On to Klamath, California.
The Hawthornes are driving down Highway 1
and happen to notice a 49 foot 2 inch Paul Bunyan and ...

... his 35 foot tall friend,
Babe the Blue Ox.

Suddenly, I'm craving mountain oysters again.

They welcome us to the Trees of Mystery -
about a mile long groomed interpretive trail
through awe-inspiring Redwoods of Northern California.

If you're ever here,
you must check out the End of Trail Native American Museum,
one of the largest privately owned world class museums.
It's fascinating.

A tree 10 feet in diameter
grew over this fallen giant.
It had to be cut for safety.

Nature's Underpass

These are the trees seen in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Fallen Giant.
The root structure of Fallen Giant
is still sound after 3000 years.

It's terribly dark in here.

Cathedral Tree,
site of many weddings.

Redwoods are the largest of living things
from an ancient line,
and near-redwoods were present on earth
at the same time as the dinosaur.
Once found world-wide,
their natural range is now restricted to the
foggy coastal belt of Northern California
(the sequoia sempervirens),
a strip in the Sierra Nevada mountains of
sequoiadendron gigantia,
and a small group of meta sequoia
(Dawn Redwood) in a remote valley in China.
These are the only living forests left
of a tree line that at one time spanned the earth.

These trees average eight feet 
to as much as twenty feet in diameter,
and some as tall as three hundred seventy five feet.
That's a tree taller than the Statue of Liberty;
a tree larger around and through than a Greyhound bus;
absolutely the largest living thing on earth.
A typical Redwood forest contains more biomass
per square foot than any other area on earth,
and that includes the Amazonian rain forests.

The Coastal Redwoods thrive on, and indeed require,
the heavy fogs that are normal daily occurrences
along the coast.
These 300 foot plus tall giants actually pull
moisture into their needles at the tops of the trees
where the circulation system of the tree can't pump to.
The 50-60 degree average temperature of the area
is also important to the life cycle of these trees.
These two conditions are limits to the modern day range
of these giants.
They will grow about anywhere,
but they will never attain their true size and stature
 without the coastal fogs and temperatures
that nurture them and at the same time
keep other competing species, such as pines,
stunted and sodden.

Redwoods have some of the most
varied and intricate survival strategies going.

The bark of a coastal redwood is very thick,
as much as a foot in places.
And it exhibits an unusual property 
when exposed to fire -
it chars into a heat shield.
It actually turns into a pretty effective ablative,
similar to the way a heat shield on a re-entry vehicle works.

The chemical composition of the tree itself is apparently
distasteful or even poisonous to normal tree pests
like termites and ants.
That is why it was used as the first layer
of boards in a wall, because termites and carpenter ants
won't burrow into it.
In the 30s to the early 60s,
redwood was used as a separator between 
the plates of electrolytic batteries.
The wood could withstand the battery acid 
and still retain its shape.

Redwood is very resistant to 
water associated rot.
It is not uncommon to drill a well
in a creek bed in this area
and end up drilling right through a redwood log 
that may have been buried there for thousands of years.

A live redwood that is knocked over
will attempt to continue growing via its limbs.
If undisturbed, the limbs pointing up
will turn into trees in their own right,
and this is indeed the source of
many row groups of trees.

Cathedral or family groups of trees
are simply trees that have grown up
from the living remains of the stump of a fallen redwood,
and since they grew out of the perimeter,
they are organized in a circle.
If you looked at the genetic information in a cell
of each of these trees,
you would find that they are identical to each other
and to the stump from which they sprang.
They are clones.

The redwood burls are another survival strategy.
Their growth is held in check by the presence of chemical signals
in a living redwood.
If the tree should die, or even be stressed,
say by low rainfall or fire,
the chemical signal weakens or vanishes
and the burl will burst forth into verdant life.
 Burls kept in a shallow pan of water
will grow almost indefinitely.
They can also continue on to become
a full grown redwood tree.
At the very least,
if watered, they will produce a lovely fringe
of green pseudo branches and make a very interesting
looking and unusual house plant.

About 20% of today's present trees sprang from seeds.
The rest came from one of the various cloning-based
proliferation strategies.
Genetically, it's the same tree
after each successive cloning process.
80% of the trees now growing were
produced in one of these cloning processes.
If you connect these two facts,
you will realize that some of those trees out there
could be the last in a 20,000 or 30,000 year line
 of the SAME tree reproducing itself over and over again.
Genetically, they are the same tree
that grew from a seed all those centuries ago.

Coastal Redwoods have the unique ability 
to survive rising soil levels over their immense lifespans.
Rising ground levels are commonly brought 
about by flood deposits,
deposits that typically smother other trees'
root systems, killing them.
The redwood simply grows a new lateral root system.
Seven successive layers of roots
were observed on one fallen redwood,
meaning that the ground level had risen dramatically
up the tree seven times and each time
the tree responded with a new root system
The total rise on this particular tree
was eleven feet over the tree's 1200+ year life.
It has been observed that some 1000+ year old
redwoods have experienced and survived rises in ground level
of as much as 30 feet.
Couple this with the redwood's ability to survive
long periods of immersion and their immense durability
in the face of flood borne debris
and you will realize that the redwood can survive
and indeed thrive in flood planes that wipe out
less hardy tree species.

There are three living species of redwood.
They are classified as three separate genera:
Coastal Redwood - Sequoia sempervirens
Sierra Redwood - Sequoiadendron gigantea
Dawn Redwood - metasequoia or glyptostroboides

 The metasequoia was first found as a fossil 
by a Japanese biologist in China in 1941.
Later, also during World War II,
living specimens were discovered 
in a single valley in central China.
The Dawn Redwood is deciduous
while the sempervirens and the gigantea
are both evergreen.

The Dawn Redwood and the Coastal Redwood
spanned the Northern Hemisphere 65 million years ago
 while their beginning was much earlier,
in the Upper Cretaceous, 
about 110 million years ago.
From their maximum coverage during the beginning
of the Tertiary period, 65 million years ago,
the Dawn Redwoods have steadily declined
until the natural population ended up being confined
to a small valley in Central China,
while the Coastal Redwood exists in a narrow strip
along the Northern California coast.
The Sierra Redwood covered the same areas
as the Coastal and the Dawn
and in addition, Europe, and are now living
in separate small groves in narrow valleys
in a small area of the Sierras.

The "Sequoia" part of Sequoia sempervirens
and Sequoiadendron gigantea
is in honor of the great Cherokee patriarch
of the Cherokee written language, Sequoia.
Several other names were used prior to settling on this one.
Other early names were "Wellingtonea":
in honor of the Duke of Wellington,
and the very patriotic "Americus."

Redwoods compensate for induced leans caused by
shifting slopes, collisions of other trees,
flood pressure, and tectonic induced tilting,
by the unusual ability to "buttress"
their undersides through accelerated growth
on the downhill side.
It is possible to find groves of trees
all leaning in the same direction.

The last part of the winding trail
(The Trail of Tall Tales)
is devoted to the myth and mythology of Paul Bunyan.

 The growth rings are marked on this trunk in a history timeline.
From left to right:
Crusades - 1096
Magna Carta - 1215
Columbus - 1492
Pilgrims - 1620
Independence - 1776
California to Union - 1850

The Klamath bears grace the bridge,
aptly named Bear Bridge.
The bears were originally painted gray.
In the 1950s-60s, a group of residents decided
to give the town a face life by painting the bears gold.
State government officials repeatedly painted the bears gray
to expunge what they believed to be vandalism,
albeit tasteful vandalism.
Upon realizing citizens were behind the golden bears,
the government relented.


Marilyn said...

Thank you for the information on the Sequoias. Very interesting.

Lea said...


tortietat said...

WOW! Have always wanted to go there.....your photographs are the next best thing. Thank you for sharing.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thank you, Mar, Lea, and Tortietat. Glad I could be of service.

dh said...

Oh my goshhhhh I want one of those crazy trees to plant in my houseeeeeeeeeeeee