Category Archive 'Trees'

16 Mar 2016

Giant Trees of Appalachia

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Some Dark Hollow reminds us that there used to be giant trees, big enough for people to live in their hollow bases, right here in the Eastern United States, not only in California.

According to the Encyclopedia of West Virginia, the largest trees ever documented in the eastern states were three sycamores documented by George Washington in 1771 on the Three Brothers Islands in the Ohio River. Washington was amazed at the size of these trees and estimated in his diary that one of them was 61 feet in circumference at its base! …

• In 1750, explorers Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell headed westward across the Allegheny range and found there way to where the mouth of Knapps Creek empties into the Greenbrier River in what is now Pocahontas County, WV. The two men decided to settle in the area. They built a cabin in for themselves, but ended up having a falling-out. Their quarrel eventually reached a point where they were not speaking to each other. So Sewell moved to a large hollow sycamore tree which stood a short distance from the cabin and lived there for a period of time.

• The following year, when surveyors for the Greenbrier Land Company entered the area, they found Marlin and Sewell living quite happily in their separate dwelling places. It was also reported that each morning the two men greeted each other with pleasant salutations. After Sewell moved on farther west where he was later killed by Indians, his former sycamore tree house served as a temporary dwelling place for many others who passed that way in subsequent years and remained as a landmark until 1930.

• Another hollow sycamore tree story from West Virginia took place near Buckhannon in Upshur County. In 1761, during the French and Indian War, John and Samuel Pringle, with two other British soldiers, deserted the army at Fort Pitt and hid out in the wilderness of the Youghiogheny River Valley. The next year when the other two soldiers were arrested, the Pringle brothers moved southwestward into the Monongahela Valley where they worked with a trapper by the name of John Simpson until 1764. After having a quarrel with Simpson, the Pringles moved into the Buckhannon River Valley and at the mouth of Turkey Run they made their home in a large hollow sycamore tree.

They lived there for about three years, until their supplies ran low and John set out to replenish them. He returned seven weeks later with the news that the war had come to an end. No longer concerned about being arrested for desertion, the brothers decided to return to the eastern settlements where they hoped to recruit others to come settle the Buckhannon Valley with them. The next year, Samuel Pringle, with his new bride and several other people, came and established the first permanent homes in this valley and, for a time, Samuel and his wife made their home in the hollow sycamore tree.

The giant chestnuts are gone in Pennsylvania, killed by the blight, but I know several places where you can see original first growth trees still standing.

11 Jan 2008

NYC to Clone Historic Trees

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Kathy Willens photo

The urban environment is sufficiently hostile to arboreal life forms that New York City has decided to use specimens cloned from proven survivors for a major replanting project.

AP reports.

Squat, homely, dwarfed by stately oaks and poplars, and unnoticed by the tourists passing in horse-drawn carriages, it’s a tree that only birds and nut-hungry squirrels could love.

But the 100-year-old European beech on Central Park’s Cherry Hill was the center of attention Thursday, chosen by city officials as the first of 25 “historical” trees to be cloned as part of a plan to add a million new trees to public spaces over the next decade.

Agriculture students from a Queens high school rode hydraulic-powered tree-trimmers’ buckets to upper branches of the 60-foot tree and snipped off 6- to 12-inch sections of new growth, which will be sent to a scientific tree nursery in eastern Oregon. If all goes well, the genetic-match saplings will return in two years to be replanted as part of the “Million Trees NYC” project announced last year.

“We want to break the stereotype of New York as skyscrapers and sidewalks,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benape said. “New York abounds in historical trees.”

The target trees, five in each of New York’s five boroughs, include nine different species. All were selected by borough foresters as historical for having existed for at least a century — either as fixtures of the urban landscape or as having special significance to local communities.

Among them is what may be the city’s oldest tree, the St. Nicholas elm in upper Manhattan, which George Washington is said to have walked under 230 years ago during the American Revolution.

Partners in the cloning effort include the Central Park Conservancy, a private group that manages the 840-acre park; Bartlett Tree Experts, a Connecticut-based company that has tree care contracts in New York, 25 other states, Canada, England and Ireland; the nonprofit Tree Fund and the Coleman Co., a camping equipment maker whose coolers will be used to ship the cuttings to Oregon.

David McMaster, a Bartlett vice president, said the cloning would target several “Olmsted trees,” dating from the creation of Central Park by famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1850s.

“Our intention here is to go after significant trees that we know Olmsted planted over 150 years ago,” he said.

Benape said being less than beautiful had no bearing on the European beech tree’s potential contribution to a greener Gotham.

“Like the other trees to be cloned, it has withstood the test of time and the indignities of urban life,” he said. “These trees as a result tend to be hardier species, inherently disease resistant. They are a great reaffirmation of the importance of nature in New York City — trees so good that people are looking to clone them.”

McMaster said the cloning is a two-stage process in which cuttings are grafted to roots of the same species at the Schichtel Nursery in Oregon, and the new growth is later peeled away to create a sapling with the DNA of the original tree.

The result is a genetically identical tree, although not one identical in shape to the original. Some trees — ash, oak and elm — that are particularly susceptible to disease must be certified as healthy to be cloned, he said.

Each of the cuttings will produce 10 genetic copies of the original tree, allowed to grow to 2 to 3 feet before being sent back to New York for replanting.

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