Sunday, September 27, 2015

September 27, 2015

From death does life spring.  This large dead and decaying stump - probably from a white pine, but perhaps a hemlock - caught my eye due to the amount of new life springing forth from its remains.

What was once a mighty tree, perhaps 100 or more feet tall, is now only a rounded form of rotting wood.  But the strong heartwood that once supported its mass is now returning the energy it stored over many decades back to new and varied life.  I counted seven different species being incubated there and I'm sure there are many more a better trained eye would recognize.  The obvious ones:

A hemlock tree

An oak tree (a little chewed by the insects)

A maple tree



Lots of partridge berry

And even a couple of new white pines to carry on the family tree.

And this is just on the outside.  I didn't violate the sanctuary, but if I did I'm sure I'd discover an even more interesting array of life including ants, grubs, earthworms, salamanders, and thousands of microscopic organisms working slowly but relentlessly to decompose the stump into rich soil and compost.  By the time that happens the plants now growing on it will have extended their roots deep into the earth and will survive without the stump, consigning to oblivion what provided their initial nurturing.

It will be quite a battle among the trees to see who reigns supreme over this little patch of New Hampshire.  There will be enough light and space for only one tree to emerge to any magnitude.  The maple and the pine will grow the fastest;  the hemlock and oak more slowly, but will establish a more complete canopy, perhaps shading out the faster upstarts.  Anyone want to make a wager on the victor?  I'll put my money on the hemlock;  it seems to be off to a healthy start, and they can inch upward for years with very little sunshine.  I'll hold your wager in escrow and get back to you in, oh, about 50 years.

This post is being sent from Steamboat Springs, Colorado as we are on a trip to visit the national parks of the southwest.  But fellow nature watchers (including our good friend who is staying at our house - thank you!) have offered to keep me appraised of what's happening around Lake Wicwas while I'm away.  Of course, I'll also share  interesting events I encounter along my trip.  The first thing I noticed is how far ahead the season is out here at the higher elevation.  Whereas the trees are just starting to turn in New Hampshire, the aspen in Colorado, even at Steamboat's base elevation of 6900 feet, are at already at peak color.
Summer colors at Lake Wicwas (photo credit:  Laurie Conn)

Steamboat Springs, Colorado in its fall colors

1 comment:

  1. And a few short days later, the leaves are off many of the Aspen; it is starting to look very "November-like". Fall is a short season at elevation!