Monday, November 16, 2009

A Big Tree

Sometimes beavers get pretty ambitious and try felling a really big tree. This isn't always successful, and it's fair to say that most of the larger trees tackled by beavers survive the experience, at least for a period of years. Ultimately the beaver may benefit, especially if wind finishes the job the beaver started.

Most of the bigger trees around Hinton are well within the capabilities of an ambitious beaver lumberjack. This picture shows a big black cottonwood on the floodplain of the Nechako River at Prince George, B.C. The beavers chewed away about 2/3 of the circumference of the tree, which I estimated at about 120 cm in diameter at the point of beaver attack. Eventually the beaver gave up, and the tree survived. The bark has since grown over part of the wound, so this tree has certainly survived a number of high wind events. There was an active beaver lodge less than 20 m from this tree. This beaver colony is still waiting for their windfall.

Our Green and Brown Fall

A normal Hinton fall sees the local aspen and balsam poplar trees in golden glory during the last 2 weeks of September and the first strong wind in early October usually strips the trees bare. 2009 was a very unusual year. First we had a late spring and leaf flush was at least 2 weeks later than usual. Then the summer and early fall was exceptionally warm and dry. By the end of September our deciduous trees were still green and the leaves were still strongly attached. Through October the leaves remained on the trees. Some turned golden but most either turned brown or a lighter shade of green. Eventually they fell, though mostly a month or more past their usual trip to the ground.

So what caused this? Were the trees trying to make up for lost time? Were they stressed by drought? Why did the trees fail to withdraw their chlorophyll from their leaves? Nobody knows for sure, but we certainly missed out on a normal fall. Next year I hope we return to normal. I love the rain of golden leaves and the "yellow brick road" on all the local trails.