A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Every time we drive to Lillooet and back it is impossible to not notice the hundreds of thousands of pine trees that are dead or dying (the pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae) between Lillooet and Lytton. What makes the trees that more obvious is their beautiful bark made up of rough, rich reddish brown plates with wide dark brown or black grooves. This last Sunday I decided to stop and photograph Rebecca with my Noblex panoramic camera which shoots a 7 inch long negative. It is most unfortunate that this blog will not show pictures that are longer than 5 inches but if you click on the image it will get larger.

Before we left we pulled a bunch of needles so we could indentify the pine with our books at home. We called our daughter Ale in Lillooet that evening and she told us the pines were Pinus contorta (Lodge Pine and Lodgepole Pine). She could not confirm it to us as she had never stopped to check on the needles but this is what the city sages had told her.

My wife Rosemary knew differently. Both of us had met the gentle and erudite Gerald Bane Straley (he died in 1997) who was the Research Scientist and Curator of Collections at the UBC Botanical Garden. I had even taken a course on propagation with him and found his enthusiasm catching.

Rosemary had been taught by Straley that the only definitive way of identifying a pine tree was to count how many needles grew from one bunch. A Pinus contorta has only two needles per bunch and the pines between Lillooet and Lytton had three. Our books showed the telltale bark but said nothing of the needles.

But then I remembered Straley's book. It is one of the most useful books in our botanical book collection (a splendid thing to say in an age of looking up stuff on Google). It is called Trees of Vancouver - A Guide to the Common and Unusual Trees of the City. On the conifer section he confirmed (the three needles) what Rosemary has suspected. Our beautiful dying pines were and are Pinus ponderosa.

This book, which should still be in print is one of the finest books to be had. The diagram and explanation of every tree in the Shaughnessy Crescent is worth the price of the book. Best of all every varity of tree in our city is given a location within Vancouver where one can find a good specimen.

When I photographed Dr. Straley at the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre of Plant Research (that's the new name of the garden) I asked him what was his favourite plant at the time. It was Kirengeshoma koreana.

Thanks to Straley's little book we know all about the Pinus ponderosa but we will have to stop again and check out another detail we did not know about. You see he says:

There is a definite fragrance of vanilla when the cracks of the bark are smelled...the name comes from ponderous, that is, having great weight or mass, referring to the size of the trees.

If you cannot buy the book new used copies can be found on the web. And for info on all things botanical, one of the best (some say the best) web pages in the world is UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research


Previous Posts
Routine Redux

Liv Ullmann, Petrus Christus , Fanny Burney & Othe...

Magic & Reality With Emma Thompson

W.H. Hudson In Reverse

Of My Blog & Fading & Renewing Friendship

The Squirrels Had nothing to be frightened of

John Loengard Teaches A Brat A Thing Or Two

John Loengard Puts Up

Cyril Belshaw & The Wondrous Chinese Spoon

And Now For Some Zamboni, Stradella & Muffat

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010