Archive for March, 2009

Humpback Whales in Hawaii

Friday, March 6th, 2009

     Here are some photos of humpback whales in the Hawaiian islands.  I find especially interesting the photo of a bubble ring in the water.  Thanks to Jim Zelenski for forwarding these to me.–April Moore

How Trees Grow

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

     As anyone who has followed knows, I love trees.  Not only do I feel somehow deeply connected with them, but I also find them fascinating.

     I have recently been reading about trees and have learned some interesting things, especially about how trees grow.  Now that I know these facts, they seem obvious, perhaps known to most people.  But, nonetheless, I would like to share some of what I have learned.

     Trees grow in two ways.  They add length, or height, only from the tips of their twigs.  Clusters of specialized cells at the end of a twig divide to make the twig grow longer.  Thus, the tree grows taller, or spreads more.

     The other way trees grow is by adding girth.  In the cambium–the layer just beneath a tree’s bark– cells divide.  This division takes place in the trunk, in every branch, in every twig.  Thus, as a tree ages, its trunk widens.  What was once a twig becomes a substantial branch.  The rings inside a tree’s trunk that can be seen when a tree has been cut down show just how much the cambium has expanded in each year of the tree’s life.

     So trees do not grow upward from the ground.  A branch growing out from a tree will be the same distance from the ground as long as the tree stands.  Branches are not lifted upward as the tree grows. 

     I was intrigued to learn that a tree’s life underground mirrors its above-ground growth.  Just as the tree grows taller and wider each year, so grow the roots underground.  As their tips lengthen every year, pushing deeper into the earth, the roots are thickening at the same time. 

     One more fact–one I find counter-intuitive.  The life of a tree is in its outer layers.  That’s where the growth is taking place.  It’s where the sap runs.  The inner part of a tree–ironically called the heartwood–is dead.  As life continues growing outward, the work of what was formerly the cambium is complete.  Having become dead heartwood, it is encased in new life. –April Moore

Trees on Winter Nights

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

     Looking out at the trees on a winter day, there is much to see.  The big, mature oaks with their grey, furrowed bark are interspersed with their younger, smoother barked neighbors.  The green needles on the pines shine in the sunlight, and the red maple’s crimson-tipped twigs add color to the winter landscape.  

     But at night it’s a different story.  Gone with the light are the color and detail that had been so abundant by day.  All that is transformed into a different ‘persona,’ assumed by the trees at night.  When I see them out my window in the darkness, I am riveted by something sober and powerful.      

     Blacker than the night sky, bare limbs stretching upward, the silhouettes of tupelo and chestnut oaks stand silent and strong.   Night after night, grasping the cold, hard earth from which they grow, the trees loom near our house.  They are stalwart beings.  

     What is it about the trees at night that so captures my attention?  The answer has only just come to me.   Looking at them through my nighttime window, I feel that these somber, dark beings are my protectors.  The trees are always there – in snow and rain and cold, in the full moon and on the darkest night–standing guard. –April Moore 

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