Friday, January 18, 2008

Aspen in Winter

All is white but the buds, getting ready for spring leafing -- good reason quaking aspen are a favorite landscape plant in northern Arizona. It helps that the trees are native to the higher elevations here and further north. Before writing, I consulted The Google and discovered not only that this tree is more widespread than any other in North America but also that there is a Eurasian quaking aspen.

For the record, two aspen groves grow in the Prescott National forest locally at elevations above 6000 ft.. One is far up Copper Basin Road, along Aspen Creek. The other follows the Hassayampa upstream from the lake south of Mount Union. Unfortunately, aspen is not a climax tree (except on some ranges in Nevada) and is gradually being edged out by taller pines. The only way we will get new aspen groves is for our forest to open up, meaning fire or other destruction of the pines (beetles?)

An aspen grove is a single plant, which is why all the trees leaf or turn color at the same time -- a spectacular performance. Wikipedia explains:

All the aspens typically grow in large colonies derived from a single seedling, and spreading by means of root suckers; new stems in the colony may appear at up to 30–40 m from the parent tree. Each tree only lives for 40–150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived, in some cases for many thousands of years, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off above ground. For this reason it is considered to be an indicator of ancient woodlands. One such colony in Utah, given the nickname of "Pando", is claimed to be 80,000 years old, making it possibly the oldest living colony. Some aspen colonies become very large with time, spreading about a metre per year, eventually covering many hectares. They are able to survive intense forest fires as the roots are below the heat of the fire, with new sprouts growing after the fire is out. However, aspens do not thrive very well in the shade, and it is difficult for aspen seedlings to grow in an already mature aspen stand. Fire indirectly benefits aspen trees, as it allows the saplings to flourish in open sunlight on account of the burned landscape. Lately aspen has increased its popularity in forestry, mostly because of its fast growth rate and ability to regenerate from sprouts, which makes the regeneration of the forest after harvesting much cheaper, as no planting or sowing is required.

The article concludes with a video of quaking aspen doing just that -- quaking. To see the video directly, go here.


Anonymous said...

Oh geez, I hate to monopolize your comments but everything here is so true! I have seen both local aspen groves in the last two months. Should be healthy after the snows. But the really cool thing was we took the GrandFather and GrandMother on their first ever excursion to southwest Colorado in the second week of October and the aspens were sensational! As you mention, all at one time.

Russell L. Carter said...

Oh dear, blogger has confuzed me. anooymous above is me.

Granny J said...

Tut, rl -- one with your experience of computing shouldn't let a simple Blogger strategem catch you out!

smilnsigh said...



Granny J said...

SnS -- aren't they just? As rl was noting. There's a wonderful grove of aspen on the paved road between Perkinsville and Williams which is absolutely smashing in the fall.

Anonymous said...

The white against the blue is super. Nice pictures.

Vicki Brannock said...

As I sit here suffering with allergies yet again and as my allergist tells me that the reason for my problems are that the folks moving here are introducing non native plants that are triggering illness in many people I have to wonder why. You couldn't import a more beautiful tree. Let's stick with what nature gave's perfect.

Granny J said...

steve -- the other local tree that gives us lovely pictures in winter is the Arizona sycamore. I'll have to go out and get some samples during the brief climb in temps (50 F today).

Granny J said...

Vick -- consider what a lovely combo could be made of mahogany colored manzanita stems plus the white of the aspen. Living on a hillside as I do, I don't even have the soil for alien vegetation.

TomboCheck said...

And don't forget that the Forest service is trying to open some area round Mt. Tritle (south of hassayampa lake) for aspen as well.

Definitely one of my favorite trees in the area, though I wish people would stop carving their darned intials in the things... :)

meggie said...

What an interesting post. They would make excellent trees for cutting it would seem.

Granny J said...

tombo -- interesting info about Mt. Trittle. As for the initials,they're just trying to immortalize themselves like the Basque shepherds who came before them.

meggie -- aspen grow tall and slender, not really suitable for sawing into lumber. I believe one of the sites referred to using the wood for match sticks, as it burns slowly.

Avus said...

White against blue.... that is why I love the silver birch here - especially when, in leaf, it also adds bright green.
You reminded me of a Tennyson quote (from "Marmion")
"Oh woman, in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy and hard to please
And variable as the shade
By the light-quivering aspen made.
When pain and anguish ring the brow
A ministering angel thou."
(Well, he was a Victorian, after all)

Granny J said...

Avus -- no need to apologize for a Victorian poem here! Quaking aspens are so intertwined with the American west in my mind that to find them in a British poem is very remarkable, even though my historic mind is quite aware of all those English botanists collecting the world.

k said...

And bless those English botanists, after all.

80,000 years old.


One reason I love orchids is because they are immortal. They can live forever: after the inital pseudobulb grows, others appear; as the older ones die off, the newer ones mature, and more brand new pseudobulbs grow.

Now I've heard that both quaking aspen and creosote are also immortal.

What a wonderful post.

Dave said...

Here from Festival of the Trees. Splendid post about one of my favorite species (we have them here in PA, too). I do like the way clonal species challenge our ideas about what constitutes an individual. But this is why foresters date trees from above-ground stems only: who knows how old some root masses might be, or what claim they might exercise upon our consciences if we knew?

Granny J said...

dave -- one of my favorite local trees, though the Arizona sycamore is perhaps my most favorite. I took a spin at one of your blogs -- such absolutely excellent pix. Loved your red tail hawk.

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