Thursday, January 19, 2006
A Hole In The Forest
On my homestead, the forest is predominately oaks. Of these, there are two classes, the old guys who are 50 to 75 years old, and the young whippersnappers who are under 20.
My oaks are mostly laurel oaks. They are short-lived for an oak.Fifty to 75 years is about it for them. I also have turkey oak, water oak, chapmans oak, and live oak. I am pretty sure the live oak (named for staying green year round) is the only one of these that routinely lives past the century mark.
Besides the oaks, we also have red bay, loblolly bay, magnolia, fringe tree, dogwood, black cherry, sparkleberry, longleaf pine, slash pine, hercules club, wild persimmon, red cedar, sabal palms, cypress, sweetgum, red maple, and black willow.
When I look at old pictures from when we first bought the land, I can see how thick the forest has become. The previous owners grazed cattle on the land beneath the old oaks. The grazing kept many of the young oaks from surviving past the seedling stage so the land was more open in 1986 when we purchased it. We were pretty brave I guess. At the time we were living and working in Savannah, Georgia without a clue as to how we would get to live on this piece of ground...but, we saw it, fell in love with it, and we bought it. With some work, a few courses, and some bold career decisions, we were here two years after we bought it.
Hmmm, I may have wandered some in that last paragraph. This is about my oaks and really, it's about that dead oak in the photo. This old laurel oak has been slowly going for years. Each year there was less of a leaf out, and more young saplings of bay, oak, and cedar scrambling for the increasing light beneath it's diminishing canopy. Last summer, the pileated woodpeckers announced it's passing with loud drumming on the lifeless old trunk.
Now there is a silent shoving match going on around the base of this big dead tree. Each sapling is pushing up, trying to be the one to get the light that now reaches through bare branches. Those few who grow the fastest will shade out the slower, condemning them to stunted growth at best, and starvation at worst.
It's a hole in the forest and the race to fill it is deadly serious to the young trees below.
Posted by R.Powers at 12:01 AM