March 2011 Archives

slow and steady

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This is not a race, but still, I'm rooting for my tree to stay in the lead!

So here's how the buds looked yesterday after many cold and windy days:


And here's how the same bud cluster looked three days ago:


Not much difference, if any. But those buds in the left corner of the picture do look a little further along.

Here's another cluster from yesterday:


And the same cluster three days ago:



Finally, here's the tip of another twig yesterday:


And here's that same twig six days ago after some light snowfall:


That's definite progress!

There's more snow expected tonight, so I'm guessing these buds will stay in the slow lane for a while still.

saying goodbye

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My kids and I stopped by the Olmsted site yesterday to see the Olmsted Elm one last time before they took it down. (See my post from yesterday for more information on the tree.) We were instructed to stay at least 20 feet away from the trunk for our safety.


The boys wanted to show me some of the things they'd seen on their field trip here last year. Lovely winding rock paths to the tree and through a flower garden (no flowers yet).


And then we took one last look.


This afternoon, it looked like this:


Just a stump left. A very big one.


Bye, bye old elm tree. Now you can only see it on the sign.


olmsted elm

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Recent articles in the Boston Globe and our local Brookline Tab have reported that a historic elm tree will soon be cut down on the grounds of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic site.


The tree is estimated to be 200 years old, but has been struggling with Dutch Elm disease for a long time. In the past few months, it has become clear that the tree is in decline and could be a danger to the house or visitors. So it will be cut down on Wednesday. The National Park Service website says that a clone of the tree will be grown and planted in its place when it is large enough. The Olmsted Elm has its own Facebook page. And there's an info page on the tree's history and significance to the site. (For example, in County Essex in England, where the Olmsted family originated, the name "Olmsted" is a variation of "Elmsted," meaning "place of the elms," therefore the elm was a special tree for Olmsted.)

Frederick Law Olmsted is considered to be the father of American landscape architecture, designing New York City's Central Park along with the Emerald Necklace here in Boston. His home was here in Brookline and is a popular destination for school field trips. In fact, my twin boys went on a series of field trips in 3rd grade during a unit on Boston history which included Fenway park, the Freedom Trail, a local beach and the Olmsted site. And guess which one was their favorite. You just can't top nature at its finest!


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Back at the branch...

There's not much change to report. Here's how the buds looked on Saturday.


And here's how the same bud cluster looked this morning.


Hmmmm. It's been mighty cold 'round here, so I guess these buds are waiting until spring returns to send out any more purple stuff.

Elsewhere... I walked by some trees that I'd snapped some pictures of a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I took a tiny twig I'd found from a baby tree and was examining its structure.


Well, this morning, it's fellow twiggies still on the tree look like this.




the tree that time built

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It's story time once again. Today we're celebrating upcoming Natonal Poetry Month by reading The Tree That Time Built, a collection of poetry about nature (and trees) collected by US Children's Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman.


The book is divided into multiple chapters, each with a theme like animals, the sea, and trees.


There are classic poems.


And new ones (many of which you can listen to on the accompanying CD).


There are poems that speak about the magic of trees.


And poems that speak to kids about their role in the natural world.


My favorite tells how a simple tree can inspire poetry.


Take some time to read some poetry in April. Or study a tree. It's the same thing.

If you'd like to bring some more poetry into your classroom or into your children's lives, check out Mary Ann Hoberman reading from her favorite poetry collections or follower her on twitter, and check out's tips for teachers.

tree antlers

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My tree has antlers! A few weeks after I started watching my tree, I noticed that there are two young twigs growing out of the main trunk about 7 feet up and 5 feet below the main branches. They look just like antlers!


Now that I know how to look at a twig to see how old it is, I thought I'd see exactly how old these silly tree antlers are.


(Click to see a bigger version.) From counting the rings that mark the terminal bud scars, I'm estimating that this twig antler has been growing for about eight years. Which means that these antlers started to grow around the same year we moved in!

So is anything growing on these antlers?


Yes siree. They have the same buds as the twigs above, only they're a little smaller and a little darker. It looks like that one in the center is just on the brink of opening up though.

Another twiglet off of one of the antlers has even smaller buds, but one of them has definitely opened. I see those purple dots in there!


It'll be interesting to watch these twigs that are so much closer to the ground. How is life different for them down here? 

Fun fact: Did you know that you can tell the age of a goat by counting the rings on its horns? A deer's antlers, however, are actually very different from horns and fall off and regrow every year!

they're everywhere!

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So just how far did the little purple things grow in two (rather chilly, rather cloudy) days? Here are some pictures I got on Tuesday.


Well, these dark dots are on almost all of the buds now.


They look like eyes opening.


The ones that opened first look like they have grape jelly oozing out of them.


What is that stuff going to be?! And if it is the flowers, will any of them turn into the galls that I've seen on my tree? That would be fascinating to see.

And I wonder what effect this morning's snow will have on their growth.


It certainly doesn't make me want to go out! I imagine it might affect them in the same way.

are you one? are you two? are you three?

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Today I looked for terminal bud scars on my twig. (See my last post for some info on these.)


Wow, there it is. Rings right above where these two tiny twiglets branch off. Here you can really imagine how the center bud broke through the end of the twig right there.

I had to kind of hang out the window to get this next picture, but I managed to get most of the entire twig in the picture. I found four spots where there were terminal bud scars.


The tip of the twig is right up by my hand there. Going down from there, there are three scars about an equal distance apart and then the next is waaaaay down the twig (the perspective here makes it seem shorter, but the twig is growing directly towards the window, so that part of the twig is much farther away from me). After that scar, the twig bark gets much thicker and then it joins to a branch. Since each of these scars indicates where new growth began in the subsequent year, I'd say that my twig is maybe five or six years old. And from the relative growth, I'd conclude that four years ago was a good year for my tree! (For what it's worth, the National Climactic Data Center says that 2007 was the 10th warmest year on record for the US!)

cool things on twigs

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Here's a little tree I walk past every day as I walk my boys to school.


It was planted last year after the tree that used to be here was finally removed (it hadn't been growing new leaves for a couple of years). The tree is just so darn cute! And it's short enough that I can reach up and grab hold of a twig to get closer look. So I did just that. After about 5 minutes of observing and taking the following pictures, the owner of the house next to the tree called out the window: "Hey, Alison, what'cha doin' out there?" Oops, busted.


It was so worth it though. Just look at those fabulous oval peachy red buds! Beneath each of the buds is a little scar from where the leaf from the last season fell off. And that's where the new bud grows. Talk about healing! If you look at the bottom of that tiny stem the three little buds are on, you can see some gray ridges. My teacher tells me that that's where the growth from the previous season ended. It's a scar made from the new bud pushing out of the tip there. (I noticed a bud on my tree the other day that had me asking this very question!) If we look down the length of the twig to find the next set of gray rings, we can see how far this twig grew last year.


I think this gray bump above this sentence might be it. Wow. I don't even know what kind of tree this is, but it seems to me that that's pretty good growth for such a little tree.

Now let's look at an amazing twig I found on the ground at the kids' school. This twig was so long and so green, I had to take some pictures of it. And it had the coolest buds! They're sort of fuzzy. I'm a sucker for fuzzy buds!


And, lookie, it has those growth scars as well.


One more twig to investigate before we return home. This one caught my eye because the very tips of the buds looked like they might be green. Leaves, maybe???


I've got a lot of questions about these types of buds. Is that a leaf? And if it is, is the whole leaf in there all folded and wrapped up already? And how does that brown part of the bud get wrapped around it like a screw? I love that there is something so perfectly wrapped and shaped like that in nature.

Anyhoo, the twig...


I see one area on the left twig there that looks like the rings of a terminal bud scar. But what really intrigued me about this twig were all the little white dots. My twig has white dots that I really notice only when it rains. The other twigs above all have them too in varying amounts. You know what I think? I think those are lenticels, which help the twig breathe. How cool is that?!

For more information on things that are on twigs check out this diagram.

first day of spring

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And right on time, the swollen buds from three days ago have started to open!!


Little purpley things are in there!


They look like they could be teeny tiny seeds or the beginning of flowers. They're all bundled up in there and seem to be poking through the center of each swollen bud. This! is! so! exciting!

Here's one that is just about to crack. You can see a little dark spot at the center of the buds here, where the little purple seeds will soon be poking out. It's like watching a baby chick hatch. Come on, you can do it!


The lateral buds along the side of the branches are opening up too.


If you look real close, it looks like the buds are even fuzzy.


They are so different than they were just two weeks ago. And what a change from the buds on the broken off branch I found in the snow a month ago.

Hello spring!

planting the trees of kenya

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It's Saturday and you know what that means on the tree blog: story time.

Today we're reading Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire Nivola. This is the story of Wangari Maathai, environmental and political activist, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 (the first African woman to ever win the prize).


The story begins with the beautiful picture on the cover: "As Wangari Matthaai tells it, when she was growing up on a farm in the hills of central Kenya, the earth was clothed in its dress of green."


"The fig tree was sacred then."

She went to study Biology in America. (She came to America through the same program that helped President Barack Obama's father come to America.)


But when she returned, things had changed. "Wangari found the fig tree cut down....Where once there had been little farms growing what each family almost all the farms were growing crops to sell....She saw that where once there had been richly wooded hills with grazing cows and goats, now the land was almost treeless....Without trees there were no roots to hold the soil in place....Rain washed the loose earth into the once-clear streams....'We have no clean drinking water,' the women of the countryside complained."


"Wangari was not one to complain. She wanted to do something....'When we see we are a part of the problem,' she said, 'we can become part of the solution.'" She taught the women how to find tree seeds and plant them, "growing seedlings, as if they were babies."


They planted trees. Millions of them. "Wangari gave seedlings to the schools....She gave seedlings to inmates of prisons and even to soldiers. 'You hold your gun,' she told the soldiers, 'but what are you protecting?'"


"'When the soil is exposed,' Wangari tells us, 'it is crying out for help, it is naked and needs to be clothed in its dress....It needs its cloth of green.'"

Wangari's message is: "Remember what millions of hands can do." And millions of trees.

You can learn more about Wangari Maathai and find the text and video of her Nobel Prize lecture at Another excellent resource is a series of podcasts from Public Radio International's "Living on Earth," which aired in 2005 and profiled Maathai and the Green Belt Movement: part 1, part 2, part 3.  

did you see something?

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It's warm today (45 degrees F) and it's sunny. I think to myself, what is my tree waiting for? More light. Check. Higher temperatures. Check. So, let's go take a look.


Those buds are definitely bigger! I've been checking every day, but maybe it's like a child growing up before your eyes: you just don't notice the subtle changes. Today, in the sunlight, the buds look like they're almost swollen. Are they just waiting to burst?!

At the very tip of the twig closest to the window, I see this.


Doesn't the top bud look like it's about to crack open? It's got sort of a plus (+) shaped ridge on the tip like a phillips head screwdriver. And that little nail looking thing in front of the bud looks different than the rest of the bud and twig. It looks smooth and shiny, not dried and rough. Could that be something growing?! A little look back in the blog reveals that this was here two weeks ago, but I hadn't noticed it then. Could it be lighter now? Larger? I'm not sure.

Here's another tip on an offshoot from my twig.


This one has that little nail thing too, although it looks more like the rest of the bud. Looking at it up close like this, it looks like the bud is breaking through the tip of the twig, doesn't it? I hadn't really thought about how the buds were attached, but this looks like it's pushed it's way out and that little nail thing is something leftover from when the tip was closed or maybe covered with a smaller bud.

Hey, that's a good question: are these buds getting longer? I've actually been looking for the pointiness of the buds to go away. My thinking was that they would start to open and so the point would go away. But I haven't seen things getting less pointy. In fact, it might just be that the buds are getting more pointy. Could they be looking more pointy because they are growing taller out of the tip of the branch?

I feel like something could be about to happen! It's St. Patrick's Day today and we're all wearing green. How long until the tree will also be wearing green?

ruff ruff bark bark

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How often do you really look at the bark on a tree? I mean, it's the part of a tree that's right down by us, but  we don't really ever look at it. For example, I'm sure that that horrible decaying scar has been on Bud for a while, but I just noticed it the other day when I was searching for sprouts in the soil. So let's take a closer look at the bark on my tree.


It's kinda grayish brown and is really cracked looking, with deep ridges and furrows. It looks like it's shedding or molting or something. It looks like all that is just going to fall off any minute, but it doesn't. Why is some bark all scaly and flaky and cracky? And check this out: the other side is green!


Wow. Why is all this mossy green growth only on this side? And, um, why is this stuff here in the first place? It's on the limbs too.

And here's the driveway tree that has the amazingly long above-ground roots.


Look at how the fence is bent and broken there. Either the fence had to be built in parts like that to get around that tree or it was built next to the tree and then, as the tree expanded, it bent the fence. The tree next to it has clearly grown into the fence. It even has the crisscross marks from the fence in its bark.


How can this tree be on both sides of the fence? What came first: the tree or the fence? I can't see any remnants of fence in the ridges of the bottom marks, but the top markings definitely have fence wire in them. Is it seriously growing bark around those wires?! 

Hey, how does bark grow anyway? I mean, the trunk adds a ring every year right? And the newer ones are on the outside? So it's not just growing more on the inside and pushing the old bark farther out. Well, maybe it adds the new ring just under the bark. So does that mean that the bark on the outside is the same bark just aging and cracking more and more? Or do trees really shed some of their bark and grow new bark?

look out below

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There are signs of spring hiding in the dirt all around! These are some sprouts from a neighbor's bulbs just starting to peep out of the finally snow-free soil.


Ever optimistic, I ran to my tree to see if there were some sprouts or grass shoots or anything even the remotest bit green around the base of my tree.


Nope. But looking down, I started thinking about the roots. After a tinsy bit of research, I discovered that a tree's roots will extend out far wider than the crown above. To think that all that is down under the sidewalk!


So that's why you sometimes see tree roots coming up above the ground. They're not that deep anyway! I checked the sidewalk cutout around our poor, unfortunate tree on the other side of the house, Bud. No sprouts, but there are some visible roots.


And after parking in our driveway the other day, I noticed these incredibly long visible roots.


These roots are not even coming from that first tree at the end of the wooden fence. There is another, even larger tree obscured behind it which is the source of all these roots. They're amazing! I feel like it can't be too good for the tree though. Aren't these supposed to be underground? Can they still bring nutrients to the tree like this? Doesn't the air dry them out too much? What if someone steps on them, drives on them, or, sorry Bud, runs the stroller over them about a thousand times?

is there a tree doctor in the house?

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After reading Someday a Tree yesterday, I started thinking about poor little Bud, the tree in front of our house with the horrible scar from an old dead branch that broke off. Looking at this picture again, it looks like that dead branch was causing some sort of decay in the main trunk.


And just this week, I noticed that there is a similarly nasty wound near the bottom of the trunk.


Blag. (That's what my kids say when something is disgusting. Like vegetables.) I wonder if these two are related? What could have happened here?

The next tree down the street has a small hole in it at about the same height, but you can see that there's none of this decay there. It looks to have grown more bark around the hole and healed.


Or maybe this one is starting to have the same problem that Bud has or had. I hope not, because I'm worried about Bud.

someday a tree

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Story time, boys and girls. Today, we're reading Someday a Tree by Eve Bunting.


This is a beautiful and sad and sweet story about a little girl and her beloved oak tree.


The little girl's family owns the land where the big oak tree has been growing since Columbus came to America. (Tree time is an amazing concept, isn't it?) They sit under the tree every afternoon to have a picnic or to read. Her favorite thing to do is to lie under the tree and stare up at the sky.


One day she rolls over and notices that the grass smells funny and looks yellow. She asks her mom, who suggests that it's been too hot and the grass just needs some rain.


But the yellow stain spreads. The leaves on the tree are drying up and falling off, even though it is spring. They call a tree doctor, who determines that the soil has been poisoned, perhaps by someone dumping chemicals on the side of the road.


Everyone comes together to try to save the tree. The contaminated soil is removed. Parts of the tree are wrapped to protect them from the sun. Some one brings a balloon for the tree. And a woman even wraps a scarf around the trunk: "It never hurts to muffle up." But it seems that the rain has caused the poison to soak into the soil. The tree is dying.


The little girl looks out her window at the tree one night, saddened by the realization that the tree won't always be there like she had always thought. Then she remembers her acorn collection. The next morning, she rushes out to the tree with her acorns.


She finds some healthy ground, digs a hole and buries her acorns. She tells her dog that "If even one of these grows, we'll have a tree, big as this....Someday."

catching raindrops

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tree sprouts

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After watching S's little bean sprout over the last weeks, I've started wondering how my tree buds will sprout. I've been thinking of them as spots where new leaves will just pop out. But is that what happens at the buds? If that's so then when do the branches ever grow longer? Is it possible that new branches will shoot out from the buds, with new leaves off of them? Perhaps the new shoots would even push the bud out along the end, like S's bean sprout keeps part of the bean up at the top.

My tree isn't telling me, so I went searching around the neighborhood for some signs of new growth on other trees and I found some interesting things.


The narrow little branch coming off after the cluster of buds is a lighter, redder color than the rest of the twig. Did that just grow in the last few weeks? It looks really new and young. It's so colorful and smooth. Are those little buds that are all clustered together also growing farther and farther away from that older looking part of the twig?


Here's another photo of a different twig on the same tree. You can really see how much lighter and redder this part is. And again there's two other little buds right there where the color changes. It's just as if the twig was growing from that point that is now in the middle.

And here's another little tiny twig I found on a small tree near the one above. The house behind these trees recently burned down and many branches were broken off as the firefighters were battling the blaze. I felt like it would be okay to snap off a tiny twig from the baby tree as it was almost completely severed from it tiny little trunk.


Look at how green the end of the twig is! The bottom part looks like a normal grayish twig, then there are some of those knuckles I noticed on a twig from my tree a couple of weeks ago and then it gets greener and greener, and then there's the bud. It really reminds me of that sprout of S's!

Is this going to happen on my tree? Nothing on my tree looks like really new growth. All the twigs are gray and bark-y looking, with the tips being slightly smoother and whiter. These newer parts don't have as many scars on them from old buds, but they don't look like they just grew this year. Hmmmmm..... Are all those buds on my tree's twigs going to sprout? That's a lot of buds. Is that why my tree seems to have these explosions of new branches?


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Apparently, a watched tree never sprouts. Despite my hyper-vigilance, I can detect no sprouting currently going on in my tree. (Frowny face) But there is some sprouting going on in the house! My son, S, is doing a little science experiment. He helped out in my science class (the one I'm writing this blog for) and got to plant a seed and bring it home. He said his seed looks just like "a Mexican jumping bean" and he couldn't wait to see if it would grow. After a week, we spotted this.


Yay! That's the little bean in the center with this stiff, curved sprout coming out of it. A few days later, and....


Lookie, it's growing! It seems like it's trying to stand up from having been curved. And is that a leaf on top??


One more day, and it's all straight straight. And now that we can see the top thing clearly, it looks like it's actually part of the bean. How odd! Is the whole thing growing down from that part? Or is it growing up and taking that part with it. For what? Food?


A couple more days and it just keeps getting taller and greener. We can't wait to see what will happen next. S's big question is: will it jump?

looking for signs of spring

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Time to check the buds on my tree.


I so want to think that that one is cracking open, but I'm not sure that that bud hasn't looked like that the whole time.

Here's another bud.


You can see that each of these terminal buds has two big, plump looking buds on either side of it and, if you look real close, it even seems to have a little top wing and bottom wing. Are they pulling away from the center bit? Is the center maybe growing away from them? Will those top and bottom wings become big plump buds too? And how is all of this going to make a flower? Or a leaf?

Here are some buds on the twig I'm watching.


You can see here that there are some color variations within the bud itself. The big, plump side buds are darker brown on the edges and a lighter beige in the middle. Is this bud-set further along in its development than the one above? The two little wings do seem farther away from the terminal bud in this set. And even the buds on the side of the twig here seem to show this color differentiation. It almost looks like a nut, when you crack it open and the darker outer shell reveals a lighter nut inside. Is that what's happening here? Is it opening?

And is any of this really a change from before?
Here's a zoomed-in section from a photo I took of my tree in the middle of February before I figured out how to take awesome close-ups.


These terminal buds might be a little pointier, but the buds right next too it look pretty plump and the side buds look like they could have that lighter-colored center.

And here's a section from a photo I took of my twig way back when I began the blog.


Looks really similar. I wish I could say there are some real changes here, but I'm just not convinced.

sticky burr: adventures in burrwood forest

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Story time! This week on the tree blog I asked a lot of questions and made some amazing discoveries about the mysterious sticky burrs on my tree, so I thought it'd be appropriate to read a story about a sticky burr. This week's book is a comic book that my two 9 year-old boys love: Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest by John Lechner (which has a sequel Sticky Burr #2: The Prickly Peril).

sticky_burr_book1.jpg  sticky_burr_book2.jpg

The first book opens with the definition of sticky burr. Finally! I keep using that word because that's what the flower galls in my tree looked like to me, but I couldn't quite say exactly what a sticky burr was.


The story is about one sticky burr in particular, the aptly named Sticky Burr.

Here he is to tell us some more about sticky burrs.


Turns out sticky burrs are prickly in more than one way. They also argue and some of them like to be mean and snag on things to annoy other animals. Sticky Burr, however, is a good burr.


So this is the story of Sticky Burr, who has an adventure. He and his dragonfly friend, Draffle, fly to the legendary Maze Tree.


Cool tree, huh? Sticky Burr's friend, Walking Stick, will now tell us a little something about trees.


So Sticky Burr gets lost in the maze of holes and tunnels in the maze tree, but he's a clever burr, so he manages to find his way out and rescue a group of lightning bugs along the way. They, in turn, come and rescue Sticky Burr when mean old Scurvy Burr tries to kick him out of the forest. Hooray. Turns out Sticky Burr got into a sticky situation with a tree once before.


Oh yes, there's music for this song too! In fact, the music is in the book. And there's a TON of other things on the Sticky Burr website. There's a map of Burrwood forest, a series of comics, which were the inspiration for the book, a journal written by Sticky Burr, some activity sheets like this one of sticky burr in the maze tree....
And there's a movie! It's so cute. You gotta watch it. Seriously, go now.

So, that's the whole Sticky Burr empire. Who comes up with a whole sticky burr empire? The author, John Lechner, is obviously unbelievably creative and all his work seems to focus on the natural world. Check out his own blog, the Untended Garden, where he explores nature in books, art, films and new media.

the gall

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After my declaration on Monday that my tree is an ash tree, I started looking around on the internet for pictures of ash trees and ash tree twigs just to make sure. When I found this photo on the blog of a naturalist photographer, I was sure I had the right thing:


It's the sticky burrs! She called them ash flower galls and said that now that she knew what they were, she was seeing them everywhere. OMG, she knows what they are! Here it was, the mystery of the sticky burrs, almost revealed. Okay, are you ready?!

Well, I was right in my last post to suspect that the sticky burrs were not, in fact, signs of new growth, but, rather, something left over from the year before. But they are not shriveled up leaves from last year. Oh no, it's way weirder. Galls are growths caused by tiny bugs (eriophyid mites) feeding on and laying eggs in the developing flowers. (Ew.) This causes the flowers to sort of overproduce and you get this swollen growth. (Yuck.) They do not harm the tree. (Phew!) And they can hang around for a couple of seasons, which explains why they look so brown and dried up and why my tree probably has fewer than some other trees. This site gives some more details on ash flower galls and this one is a more scientific look at the galls and the mites. But I like this little entry from a lawn & tree company in Kansas City that reassures ash tree owners (and watchers, like me) that the galls are really just a cosmetic problem. (Hey, who you calling ugly?)

The discovery of the ash galls led me to learn another fascinating thing about my tree. I have a BOY ash tree. Who knew that trees were boys or girls?? Apparently, ash trees are dioecious, which means a single ash tree will produce either only male or only female flowers. And these little mites only eat and grow on the male ash tree flowers. So, not only was I wrong about the sticky burrs, but I was also wrong to declare my tree a girl back when I introduced her, um, him to you.

Well, consider my little tree-observing world rocked.

what's missing from this picture?

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While examining my tree closely looking for any signs of sticky burrs or new leaves or anything really, I noticed that several of the branches have no buds at all. The tips of all these branches are so barren looking. They look almost broken off at the end.  Are these dead? I wonder if there is any chance that their buds will grow later.


It seems so sad that these dead branches are still hanging on the tree while that broken-off top branch I found in the snow was all covered with buds. I wonder if these have stayed on because they were protected from the wind and storms down here. But did that also mean that they didn't get enough light? Why did they die? And is it bad for the tree to have dead branches hanging on it?

I walked around the tree to get a different look at the dead branches and suddenly noticed two spots on the trunk where it looks like largish limbs must have been cut off of my tree.



And this reminded me of my little half-tree Bud on the other side of the house. So I paid him a visit to get a picture of the part that was dead for so long and then removed last year.


Ugh. That is just plain old wrong looking. It looks like a tree growing out of a tree or almost like the original tree was impaled by this other part. Yikes. Despite having this rather gruesome scar, Bud actually looks fine when he's got all his leaves. He's a sweet little tree.

I wanted to get a picture of the good side of Bud, so I went up on to the balcony and tried to get a photo of the crown.


You can still see the section that was cut off down there, but up here you can also see the pinky/red fleshy sort of buds that are growing on the tips and ends of Bud's twigs. There are a lot fewer buds on Bud than on my tree. Different growths for different folks, I guess. There are also lots of ridges on the twigs around the buds. Hmmm...I wonder what kind of tree Bud is???

museum trees

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During school vacation last week, the kids and I went to the Boston Museum of Science (like everyone else in the Boston area). The kids had a great time learning about nanotechnology and models and Mars rovers. I looked for trees.

Downstairs, right behind the crazy mechanical ball contraption, there is an exhibit about scientific classification. I get to tour this area regularly because the boys need a full half hour to fully appreciate the awesomeness that is the mechanical ball machine. I remembered that there were some tree artifacts in the exhibit, so I started my tree hunt in there.


I was interested in this tree because I already suspected that my tree was an ash tree. (It wasn't until yesterday that I was confident enough to say that my tree is definitely an ash.) This tree lived in Concord and was 165 years old when they had to remove it in 2000. The tree was most likely planted by a farmer back in 1835 because ash trees are particularly good for providing shade and wood.   Because of pollution and soil compaction caused by the expansion of nearby roads, it had begun to weaken and die. It was determined to be a danger to the cars below and was removed. I really liked how they told the tree's story. It makes me think of my ash tree and its life the city. I wonder how it is affected by its environment - a tiny three or four foot square cut out in the sidewalk. I wonder how many times it's had to be pruned and cut back for safety reasons. I wonder how long it will live before it has to be removed (like the trees on the street next to me).

Also in this area was a little theater with the story of an old oak tree. This tree's story was cleverly presented as an "urban mystery." How long has the tree been here? My little girl didn't want to go in to listen to the movie, so I only got a shot of the sign outside, but I'm sure I'll get a chance to hear it another day.


My own tree is just one big mystery to me. What are the leaves going to look like? When will they sprout? What will the seeds look like? How long has it been here? I wonder if I can figure anything out about my tree's age by looking around my tree.

There was another tree trunk in the kids' discovery center. It was in a corner along with two really great looking books, Oak Tree and Nature in the Neighborhood by Gordon Morrison.


They looked like excellent resources for studying trees and nature in the classroom. Although these are non-fiction books, they sort of tell the scientific story of an oak tree or the many habitats within a neighborhood. There's larger text and simpler descriptions alongside lovely, realistic illustrations as well as smaller text with definitions and more details. Check out for more sample pages.


While we were on the way to the science museum, the kids told me that there was an enormous tree trunk in the museum that was like a thousand years old. I doubted that the tree was that old, but once we found it, we saw that it's actually twice as old as that!


It was planted in like 60 BCE. Now that's a tree that has a story to tell!

The last tree I spotted at the museum was this tree of spoons up by the lighthouse (a room where kids make funny poses in front of a light sensitive wall and then a flash goes off, leaving a sort of shadow picture of their bodies on the wall behind them).


Why is this here? What is it about? Is it art? Is it science? Is it a tree? What is its story? A mystery to solve on our next visit....

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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