August 2011 Archives

after irene

| No Comments
We took a walk around the neighborhood on Sunday evening, just after the worst of the winds and rain from Hurricane Irene were done. From the looks of things, the trees seem to have taken the brunt of the storm.


Twigs scattered across the sidewalk and street from a large oak tree.


My son picks up a large branch that fell from a maple tree.


An ash tree that I've posted about before lost a huge branch.


And a black walnut tree on the playground also lost a branch and what looks like all of its fruit. They are everywhere!

Closer to home, the ailanthus super tree saplings were pretty much decimated by the winds.


But the neighborhood must have suffered even more serious tree damage than what we found, because we lost power due to downed trees at about 2:30pm and didn't get it back until 10 hours later. We had dinner at dusk in the living room by big windows and several candles.


When the power came back on we were able to read online about the big trees that had been damaged and had caused the power outages.

photo from Brookline Tab

There are still about 100 residents in the area who have no power. Thank goodness that's not us. We were lucky.

hold on to your leaves!

| No Comments
We are all hunkered down here in New England with our flashlights and our extra water, waiting for Hurricane Irene to pass through. The rain came down hard last night and now we're getting the wind end of things. We're surviving pretty well so far, but it sure is rough on the trees.


The branches are being whipped around a lot. Poor little things. It's good that the man with the pointy stick came and cut off the low-hanging dead branches from my tree last week though. Those things would be down on the street with all those leaves now for sure.

While we're riding out the storm, I'm reading my sons' issue of Kids Discover magazine about hurricanes.


Kids Discover tells us that we can judge the strength of the wind in a storm by looking at how much it is bending the trees.


I'd say my tree looks like the first picture. Not straight, but things could be a lot worse.

Best of luck to everyone out there in the storm's path. I hope all your trees are still standing when everything's done!

just a trim

| No Comments
You might want to sit down for this....

Are you ready?

So, when I woke up the other morning, my kids tell me that something happened outside. With the tree. Apparently a couple of men came. With a long pointy stick. And they cut off everything that I've been watching, measuring, and photographing for the last six months. I can't reach a single twig now.


It seems that the men with the long pointy stick came to cut off the dead branches that were hanging down precariously from the lowest limb (I've marked those spots with black circles in the picture above). When they were all done, the kids overheard them say something like, "it's up against the house, cut those too." And they cut off the two thriving branches marked by green circles above. The one on the left was actually five or six small branches that I'd photographed repeatedly to gauge the progress of leaf growth. And the one on the right was the one long branch that had all the twigs on it that I'd been watching.

They even cut off the antlers.


I'm trying to be okay with this. I mean, it probably is way better for the tree. Those dead branches really had to go. They could have come down on someone in a storm, anytime. And I understand why they want to keep things clear of the houses. But I'm still sad about all that beautiful green gone.


June 16th and today.


And I'm sad I won't get to watch my branches continue their change through fall and back to winter. How am I going to see what happens to the leaves when they change? How am I going to see what happens with the buds? How am I going to see what is left behind when a leaf falls off? I have got to come up with a plan B.

Hey, wait a minute, I think I know what happened to the new growth on the ailanthus tree.

up, up, and away?

| No Comments
Lookie how the ash tree leaves point up now.


They're like this all over the tree and on other ashes around the block. Are they fighting for light now? Is this about competition or reduced sunlight? Or has reduced sunlight brought on a little friendly leaf competition? Are we approaching desperate times for these leaves? The signs are there that the leaves won't be around forever.


There's actually already some yellow leaves in there! Changes are coming, that's for sure. I wonder if these leaves are really changing early, harbingers of what is to come, or if they just didn't get enough light or water and are dying.

I feel like I did back in early March, always asking 'Is this the start of something? When will fall begin?'

field trip: a tree scavenger hunt

| No Comments
Last week, the Arnold Arboretum had a family fun day with lots of awesome activities including a scavenger hunt! Wanna look for trees with us? First, we get a "Tree Adventure" booklet with 9 clues.


Each clue describes a tree and gives us some general directions of where to find it. Once we find the tree, we hunt around it to find the stamp box. We stamp our book, turn the page, and follow the next clue. Ready?

Clue #1: Just across the road you will find our logo tree hanging out by the sunflowers.


This is a 90-foot tall dawn redwood and is represented on the Arboretum's logo.


Clue #2: Find the tallest tree in the Arboretum -- a silver maple that's nearly 130 feet tall!


It's also 130 years old! And look at that amazing trunk....


Clue #3: Be on the lookout for a large shrub with puffs like cotton candy.


Did I ever mention that trees are weird? Well, this one certainly is. It looks like it's got giant tree lint stuck in it or something. These are actually flowers and bracts. When a tree like this has a whole bunch of them, it looks like puffs of smoke, which is why this tree is called the smoketree.


Clue #4: This tree is covered with pods shaped like lanterns.

hunt8.jpg  hunt9.jpg

This one was hard. We walked by it several times before we decided that these things might look like lanterns. It's called the goldenrain tree for the golden-yellow flowers that fall from it in summer. Hmmm, let's hope the next one is easier.

Clue #5: Look for a tree with its "knees" in the water!

That's got to be it there right by the pond! The kids are already there. But they can't find the box! That's because it's really this tree, the bald cypress, on the other side of the pond. Doh!


Clue #6: Find the tree with pink flowers and fern-like leaves.


Hooray, an easy one! The lovely silk tree.

Clue #7: Look for a sassafras tree with a trunk label.


Do you know what a sassafras tree looks like? I didn't, but we found it. Did you know that it has three different shaped leaves?


It's got oval leaves, leaves with three lobes and some that have just two lobes and kind of look like a mitten. Neat!

Clue # 8: Find the only grape vine in the vine collection with red leaves.


We found this one because others were already hanging out by it doing their stamps. Otherwise we might have had to look around a while. I love the vine garden though. And so does my daughter, who fell in love with the wisteria the last time we came here.

Clue #9: Look for three large, purple-leaf trees.


The middle one of the three was our final stop on the scavenger hunt. It was a huge beech tree with leaves that hung so low we had to crouch to get underneath it to the stamp box.

Wasn't that fun? The kids all got little prizes for completing their books. For you, I have some free tree clip art to enjoy, which you can download at crafty jenny:


Thanks for hunting for trees with me!

has super tree met its match?

| No Comments
The ailanthus tree by our parking space has had a whole month and a half to grow since I've checked in on it. Given its ability to grow in leaps and bounds, I was expecting some real changes.

The little sprouts that had just started growing across the driveway in June...

ailanthus6_23c.jpg look like this:


That's what I'm talking about! Taking over, world domination and all that.

And the new growth on the ailanthus tree itself -- outlined below in green so you can see it -- was already over 3 feet high in June and now is...




Oh my! It's just broken off right there. There's no sign of the new branch on the ground anywhere. Apparently the super tree does have a kryptonite. But what was it? Wind? Rain? An animal? Kids?

a couple of boys have the best week ever

| No Comments
Get ready for a fun story time today! We're reading A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee. This picture book tells the story of two boys who go to nature camp together. It received a Caldecott honor in 2009. And it is pretty much the best book ever!


In the story, James spends a week during summer vacation with his friend Eamon at Eamon's grandparents' house so that the two friends can go to nature camp together. Don't they look happy on the cover? Picture perfect nature campers - that's James and Eamon.

Uh, nope. Through their fixed smiles, James is saying to Eamon, "How long do we have to stand here and smile?" and Eamon's saying, "Only for this picture and then we can go back to being normal." Oh, yeah, I think I'm going to like these kids.

The narration takes no notice of the boys' real feelings. It continues along, explaining how upset poor James was when his mother dropped him off.


Nope, wrong again. Frazee does such a wonderful job showing us the child's perspective in the illustrations. The text is telling us one thing, but James and Eamon see things a little differently than the text.

Okay, so this here's a book about an awesome week at nature camp, right? Show me some trees and nature stuff!


Nope, no nature stuff. Heh, heh, nutty kids. Can you blame them? The boys come home, we see them eat heaping mounds of ice cream, watch loads of tv, have waffles for dinner, and jump up and down on the blow-up mattress before going to bed. 

Alright, here comes day two. Now the fun is going to start and we're gonna see some nature stuff.


Nope. Giggle, er, ahem, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. When the kids get back home, we see them play video games and eat more waffles. Then they "enjoy the beach together."


Ha! That sounds just like my kids!

On the next page, the text sums up the week: "Nature camp was just so great." What?! Nature camp is almost over and I haven't seen any trees at all!

That's right, this book isn't about nature camp at all. Oh sure, the week of nature camp was the best week ever, but what made it so great was the fact that they spent it together. James and Eamon tell us that nature camp was sweaty and boring but we can see on their faces that it's fun to be sweaty and bored with your best friend. Especially if you can come home afterward and eat banana waffles. This book celebrates all those things that kids really love about summer. The seemingly mundane things that they tell you about when you ask them "What did you do over the summer?" Do they tell you about the big trip the family took? Nope. The books they read? Nope. They tell you that they had the best week ever doing a million things and nothing with their best friend. And that they can't wait to go to nature camp again next year.

There are some special moments in the book that the kids share with Eamon's grandparents that I haven't told you about, so check out the book and discover them for yourself! And be sure to take a close look at the end pages. Frazee has made them look like a scrapbook filled with snapshots of the boys at nature camp. (Yay! Nature stuff!) Turns out, James and Eamon didn't just sweat and stare at flowers. They had plenty of fun there as well. Together.


red or green

| No Comments
Since the spring, my daughter and I have enjoyed watching the development of the Japanese maple that we always pass on our walk to the library. It has always stood out because of its reddish maroon color. In early June, the leaves looked like this.


And those tiny red things which look like teensy flowers, are actually the keys just starting to grow. So cute!

When we walked by the tree on our first trip to the library since our return, we almost didn't recognize it....


It's all green now!


Hmm....while my ash tree's new twig growth changed from green to gray and the girl ash tree's leaves are changing from green to yellow, this tree's gone green. I wonder how its leaves will change in the fall. Will they turn back to red?

skin peel

| No Comments
The sycamore trees in my neighborhood seem to be beating the summer heat by peeling off their bark!


Isn't that awesome looking? Check out a close-up.


That is just wacky. I swear they weren't peeling like this before we left for vacation in June. I knew that they did this - how else would they get that cool camouflage patterned bark?


That was a sycamore trunk that I spotted back in February. In March, I identified a baby sycamore down the street with beautiful silver gray bark with subtle variations in color. (It also had a town id tag around one of its branches.)


Now the baby sycamore looks like this.


There's really a contrast between the two colors of bark now. And lookie, it busted its tag! Did the peeling bark do that!? When I look up, I can actually see small patches of bark that have fallen off and were caught in the branches.


Why do these trees do this??? Is that how they grow? Like molting? Does it keep the bark and tree healthier? Is that "new" bark underneath? I don't get it.

So I looked it up! Turns out the sycamore's bark is too rigid to allow for the regular growth of the trunk, so as the trunk grows, the outer bark cracks and then falls off. So it is like molting. In little patches. Eew.

in search of seed pods

| No Comments
Now that we've checked in on my ash tree and on the chestnut down the street, let's see what the kooky honey locusts have been up to. Last time, I was starting to get confused/frustrated that I had yet to see any fruit on the honey locusts. I was eager to see if they had started to develop fruit after our month-long vacation.


Um, no. That's the honey locust right next to my tree. Still no fruit. Seriously? None? Ever hopeful, I kept walking to check out some other honey locusts elsewhere in the neighborhood. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, the honey locusts are dioecious like ash trees and have completely male and completely female trees. So this might just be a boy tree like my ash. Maybe.

We walked on toward the kids' school. Every fall, right at the beginning of the school year, we find seedpods galore all around here. My son even brought one in to kindergarten years ago for show and tell. (True story: Not knowing ANYTHING about trees, I had no idea what it was. I had to search on the internet to figure out that it was a seed pod. I never did figure out what kind of tree it was from. Now I know though!) So, I figured if there was going to be fruit growing on any honey locusts around the neighborhood, it was going to be here!


Result! Seed pods! And man, are they long already. I can hardly believe it. I hadn't spotted any real signs of fruit growing on the honey locusts before we left. So it did all that in one month. Cool!

Farther down the street I saw more seed pods on a honey locust I'd photographed before. In May, I'd spotted a birdie perched up among the creepy, jagged branches.


Now, the branch looks like this.


I love the way the seed pods hang down like little green bats. They're so thin and flat though. They make me think of Flat Stanley. Flat bananas for Flat Stanley.

Yeah, honey locusts are still weird.

tim and moby (and annie) talk about trees

| No Comments
If you're in a school, you've probably heard of Tim and Moby. And BrainPOP, the website full of animated educational movies staring Tim and his funny robot Moby. I've been watching lots of BrainPOP movies this summer (along with my kids) to help prepare myself for the state licensing exam requiring teachers to show knowledge of all the subjects in state curriculum standards. Don't laugh, they're great movies! Anyway, I was so excited when I found a few movies about trees!


There's Tim and Moby. Tim's shirt always shows what they're discussing this time. In this movie, we learn about plant growth and, like all the movies, it is full of great information, presented in a clear way without being overwhelming or confusing, and always with a little bit of humor.


The movies always start with Tim and Moby reading a letter with a question sent in to BrainPOP. In this movie, a student asks why the apple tree in front of her school only has pink flowers on it and no apples.


Moby just happens to be up in an apple tree (dropping applies on Tim's head) and so we take a look at the development of the tree from flowering to growing fruit and spreading seeds. Tim does most of the talking, because all Moby can say is "Beep."


They talk about the purpose of the flower, the stamen and the pistil, and pollination (there's a whole 'nother movie just about that topic too!).


And they tell us how plants get nutrients. They explain the xylem and the phloem and photosynthesis. (Yeah, I could use a refresher on how that works too. Luckily, there's a movie on that one also!)


And they even show how animals can help out with seed dispersal.


I think Moby is saying, yuck!

So, bad news is, you've gotta have a subscription to see these movies. But, good news is, your school may already have one. You can ask your school librarian. You can also sign up for a free trial and watch all the movies you want for 5 days! And then tell your school librarian that your school needs a subscription. Also, there are about 20 free movies. They are awesome (but they're not about trees).

For younger kids (grades K-3), there's BrainPOP Jr., which my 4 year-old LOVES. And one of the free movies on BrainPOP Jr. is about forests. So check it out!


In BrainPOP Jr., Moby is in school with Annie. In each movie, she gets to thinking about something and poses questions to us, which are written on a little notebook next to the movie. Each question stays up there until she is done talking about it and then she poses another, related question. In this way, each movie gives younger kids a broad, but accessible introduction to the topic. 



There's even a BrainPOP in Spanish! One of their free movies is about ecosystems. I'm sure there are bound to be some trees in there! But, um, I don't know any Spanish, so you'll just have to let me know....

the sky is falling

| No Comments
Soon after we returned from our vacation, I happened to walk past the horse chestnut tree that I was watching in the spring. I was in a hurry, so I wasn't looking up at the tree. I was just rushing by looking down and I saw a chestnut! It was green and still on the small side, but it was a chestnut. I didn't have my camera with me (doh!) so I had to come back a couple of days later to take a picture of the tree's progress.


The chestnuts have really developed since I last photographed them in early June. The few that have fallen from the tree already are probably not really ripe or ready or mature or whatever you call it. But they are cute!


You know what? They remind me of the glowing light bulb trees in the Hundertwasser poster I saw in Regensburg! Except for the spikes of course. Oooh, I know, they look like a puffer fish! Those spikes are no joke by the way. They are ouchy. Amazing what a plant can come up with to protect its fruit.

let's hear it for the girl

| No Comments
Finally, I managed to take a walk down the street with the camera to check in on the girl ash tree. She is looking quite different than my boy ash these days. My boy tree has no fruit of course, but she has lots of dangling clusters of samaras.


The samaras look a little longer than they did before we left. And there's definitely more of them. There also looks to be a narrow, longish seed inside now. Surprisingly, though, those green balls are also still there between the samaras. I thought they were part of the growing samaras and would disappear. Now I'm thinking maybe they are some part of the old flowers and are just shriveling up.

Another surprise on the lady ash is the color of some of her leaves.


Several of the leaves have turned completely yellow! Are these leaves dying? Did these leaves perhaps not survive the massive July heat waves as well as the others? Or is this a very early sign of changes to come in the fall? I imagine that things for the girl tree might progress a little differently than my boy tree as we approach fall. She's got to send those seeds off on their way before she's ready for a long winter's rest. I wonder if her leaves will change color earlier or later than those of the boy tree. And when exactly will she release her seeds? When are they "ripe"? How will she know?

long time, no see, tree

| No Comments
Alright, it's been over a month since we've taken a look at the tree. Has anything changed?

Well, the leaves have continued to darken and wither. They were already starting to look older and a bit wrinkly in June. At the end of July, when we returned home from our vacation, they looked like this.


You can see the toothed edges so clearly now! I remember having difficulty noticing that when I was first trying to identify the characteristics of the ash tree leaves in May. And the green is so dark now too. You can really see the structure of the veins: almost perfect opposite branching off of a central vein. Typical for my tree.

Looking below the leaves reveals the real dramatic change of the last month.


The new growth from the spring has changed color! The new section of the twig, where the leaves have grown, has changed from green to a light brownish/gray. What a surprise! I was not expecting that!


Here's the scar where the new growth for this year began, growing out of the terminal bud at the tip of last year's growth. You can see how the color of the new section is changing and will eventually look like that from last year.


And the buds at the tips of this year's growth look much more fully formed than they did a month ago. You take those green stems away, and it could totally be my twig back in February! In fact, this twig seems to have a strange nail-looking ridge beneath the terminal bud just like I saw on one of the twigs I was watching in March. Now that I see it here, green, next to stems holding leaves, I think I know what it is! It looks just like the base of a new stem for a new leaf, doesn't it? That would be exactly the spot for a new pair of leaves too: off-set 90 degrees from the previous set of leaves, right? So I guess this last set just didn't develop. Maybe it kind of started and then stopped. Or maybe that's something that the twig does to sort of seal up the terminal bud.

Okay, I feel like this tree has done all the growing it's going to do. I mean, those buds will probably grow some more and the new growth will probably darken, but there's not going to be more growth or more leaves. So what is the tree doing now? Is it making food for winter? Does it even need to do that? Is it just being a tree: providing food, shelter, shade and oxygen for animals? I wonder when the leaves will start changing colors? Will the ash be an early color-changer or late? What will the scar look like when the leaves do fall off? I feel a little like I did in February, like things are sort of stable now and I'm just waiting, waiting for any signs of the big change to come. Fall is going to be exciting!

October 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

About this Archive

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

July 2011 is the previous archive.

September 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.12