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Have you ever considered a tree from an objective point of view? Look at one and imagine you've never seen a tree before. What wondrous creations they are. Some species are the largest living creatures on earth. Besides being a treat to the eyes, trees provide most of the oxygen that we breathe. But, despite that, they are being cleared and cut down all over the world in the name of progress. Check out some of my photos here.

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Impressive Sycamore (posted 9/1/2007)

This impressive sycamore is located on Creve Coeur Mill Road in the city of Maryland Heights, Missouri. I've driven past it for years and finally stopped for photos. It's even more impressive when you take a closer look! This approximately 100 foot tall tree has a trunk diameter of about 5 feet at chest level; at some point I'm going back with a rope to measure the circumference. That's me leaning on the trunk. I am 5' 7" tall. It's a stubby-looking tree because the top broke out long ago. It's surrounded by some small maples, which make it look "bushy."

Unfortunately, this tree is in jeopardy. It's located in the Creve Coeur bottomlands, which is slated for construction of commercial development over the next 25 years. The farmers there are giving up their lucrative farmland now that there is a levee, which will supposedly keep the Missouri River under control. Maryland Heights was named a Tree City again in 2007; we'll see if that eventually makes a difference in the life of this tree.



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Wire Sculptured Trees (posted 8/28/2007)

Last week at a craft show I stumbled on a booth manned by Gerald Wayne Sanders of Nashville, Tennessee. His business is called Wire-Wrapped Trees. Of course I had to have one of the windblown ones, left, which hangs on the wall. He makes these trees--regular, weeping willow and windblown--from wire, and in addition to the wall trees you can also purchase trees mounted in marble to sit on a table. Check out his website.

In the literature that Gerald hands out with each purchase he says, "There's nothing like a tree. An inspiration for all seasons, it is especially enchanting in winter, when, stripped down to majestic bareness, it stands a mighty, beautiful reminder of nature's ever-changing face. When leaves and sap and snow and temperatures all have fallen, the tree's form and color rise toward skies brilliant blue or hunkered-down gray. They are the bones of the landscape, outlining the natural world in strokes as simple and elegant as a few well-spaced lines in a fine ink drawing. At the same time, those bones and what they say can be complicated and distinctly personal. Everyone in their life has experienced a close relationship to a tree, whether they played in a tire swing, or planted a tree in remembrance of a loved one. Stand in the bright, angular light of a winter day, and look at a colony of black oaks spread across a field of winter white. You cannot but feel a surge of awe that only could come from the electrifying power of trees."

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Here's a interesting perspective on tree photography. Unfortunately, this link does not work anymore. Shame--there were some exotic photos there. I'll leave this one as a good example.

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City Honored for Forestry Program (posted 5/22/2005)

I live in Maryland Heights, MO, a suburb of St. Louis.  Maryland Heights is now 20 years old--I remember when we voted to break from the county and become a city and it seems like just yesterday.  Certainly not 20 years ago.  The article below is from the City of Maryland Heights Newsletter, May 2005.  And I quote....

"Last month, for the fourth straight year, Maryland Heights was named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation.  But this year, the foundation also recognized the city with a second honor, the Tree City USA Growth Award.

"The National Arbor Day Foundation presented the city with the new award for demonstrating progress in planning and management, tree inventory and analysis and computerized tree management systems.

"The award recognizes environmental improvement and encourages higher levels of tree care," Public Works Director Bryan Pearl said.  "Last year we completed a computerized inventory of all street trees and park trees, indicating what species mix, and planting and care needs of all city trees."

In order to be named a Tree City USA, a city must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance.

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Below is an article from the Wisconsin State Journal sent to me by my good friend Jeff Dean, who lives in Madison.  I don't as yet have copies of these books but you can bet I soon will.

Books Tell of Madison's Oldest Trees
Chris Martell  Wisconsin State Journal
April 16, 2005

Most passers-by probably don't pay much attention to the big oak tree in a field outside a low-slung commercial building in Middleton - even though it's almost perfectly shaped and in rugged good health at age 200.  

But it triggers a sense of d j vu.  

That's because the "Pleasant Company Oak" is the familiar symbol of the American Girl dolls and books.  And as such, it's the Madison area's only internationally known tree.  

Pleasant Rowland's office window at the company she founded in 1986 had a view of the tree.  And to make sure it stayed healthy, she called on Madison arborist Bruce Allison.  

Allison has become well- acquainted with many of Wisconsin's great trees since he came to graduate school at UW-Madison in 1974.  Two books he authored on the subject are being published this spring.  

For more than 20 years, he's been taking inventory of Wisconsin's biggest, most ancient and most peculiar trees, and telling the stories of the human history they silently witnessed.  

"Wisconsin's Champion Trees" is primarily intended for "tree hunters," folks who criss- cross the state to feel, measure and have their picture taken with prize specimens.  

Tree hunters are always on the lookout for undiscovered tree superstars, and Allison's book explains how to join the hunt by searching woods, pastures and ordinary back yards for champion trees.  After measuring them, they can be nominated for the Department of Natural Resources Champion Tree Program.  

"The program to collect stories of Wisconsin's trees goes back to 1941, when letters were sent to historical societies all over the state and as much information as possible was gathered," Allison said.  "I'm carrying on the tradition and updating the tree stories. Wisconsin is remarkably far ahead of other states in how it handles its tree resources. This state has gotten a lot of federal money to spend on its urban tree program. Compared to duck and deer hunters, tree hunters can feel reasonably confident that their prey will be there when they arrive."

But until the development of the Global Positioning System was developed, finding a venerable tree was not always a sure thing.  

Many big trees that were identified in the past got lost when street names were changed or maps redrawn.  Many disappeared without notice, as victims of disease, lightning, storms or the chain saw.

Oaks, once the dominant species in the Madison area and used by early surveyors to mark the land, are also being lost to pollution and disease.  Limestone used in roads increases the pH content of the soil, which disturbs oak trees; others were lost to oak wilt.

Allison's other book, "Every Root an Anchor: Wisconsin's Famous and Historic Trees," is an armchair read for those who love magnificent trees, but don't necessarily feel compelled to hunt them and become personally acquainted.  The book is a collection of tree mini-profiles that tell stories of how the trees were part of the humans who lived among them.

We learn, for instance, that Frank Lloyd Wright once said he was more likely to mourn the loss of a tree than a human.  He built the Tea Circle at Taliesin in Spring Green around two old oaks.

Shortly after he died at his winter home in Arizona, a bolt of lightning destroyed the larger of the oaks in Spring Green, and the smaller, no longer in its shadow, grew to a circumference of more than 100 feet.

And in Madison, under a giant black locust on Observatory Drive, naturalist John Muir had his first botany lesson.  Trees that appear to have been twisted as saplings are also seen in the book; their branches pointed in certain directions to serve as trail markers.

"We can't say for certain who bent the trees, or why they did it," Allison said.  "But it's certainly no coincidence when you see a limb that was bent to point toward a river or some other landmark. Trees were the first street signs."

Others were growing before the earliest French explorers arrived.

Mutant trees, hanging trees, trees where Native Americans held councils or Civil War soldiers were recruited are all part of Wisconsin's arboreal heritage.  Some described in Allison's book are long gone, but many are still standing, either on their own or with the help of tie rods.

Wisconsin's trees (the oldest is a 450-year-old bur oak in Dousman; there's a 400-year- old white oak in Fitchburg and a 266-year-old red oak in Madison) are, chronologically speaking, saplings compared to some of the world's trees.

The oldest tree on Earth is the Methusala Tree, a bristlecone pine in California's Sierra Mountains, which has been carbon dated at 4,500 years old.  The giant redwoods on the Pacific Coast are about 2,000 years old, and the tallest is 390 feet.

Still, Wisconsin has an impressive collection of trees, and many of the finest examples of their species can be found nearby.


Spring Tavern Black Walnut, 3706 Nakoma Road, on Madison's West Side.  The tree still stands behind the old stagecoach inn, even though the contents of Native American burial mounds found on the property (including skeletons in sitting position, pots, stones, axes and knives) were lost when the first Capitol, which then housed the Wisconsin Historical Society, burned in 1904.

Pine Street Oak, 602 Pine St., on Madison's South Side.  One of the oldest trees in Madison stands in a corner lot in the old Wingra Village neighborhood, which has Wingra Creek as one of its boundaries.

President's Tree, near the old Observatory Director's Residence, 1225 Observatory DriveThis 250-year-old bur oak is known as the President's Tree because a succession of university presidents also lived in the home.  Legend has it that during the Civil War, soldiers stationed at Camp Randall used the tree for gunnery practice, and a gaping hole in the trunk was offered as evidence.  The tree was bolted together with steel rods and seems to be in good health.

Bascom Hill Elms.  In 2004, 34 mature elm trees remained on campus, many of them dating back to the campus's earliest days in the 1850s, and survivors of Dutch elm disease that ravaged the states elms from the mid-1950s into the 1970s.  Sixteen of the elms line the two sidewalks on Bascom Hill.

Geotropic Goff Larch, 620 Babcock Drive, at the former home of the agriculture deans.  The genetically mutant larch tree, a European conifer, is named for horticulture professor Emmett Goff.  It was brought from Door County in 1899.  Its branches bend down instead of up, and many attempts to get cuttings from the larch to grow in the same way as the parent tree have failed.

Edgewood Oaks, Edgewood Drive.  In a 1976 survey there were more than 400 oaks older than 200 within an eight- mile radius of the Capitol.  Seven of them were on the Edgewood campus on the shore of Lake Wingra, which was an encampment for generations of Winnebagos.  Hickory pine and silver maples are also among the trees in the Edgewood forest.

The Mount Vernon Forest of Fame, Dane County.  Near Highway 92, the first trees were planted here for Arbor Day in 1916.  The trees came from the homes of former presidents, including George Washington (who lived at Mount Vernon) and Abraham Lincoln, and other famous people, many of them from Wisconsin.

Trading Post Oak, 3119 Waconia Lane, Middleton.  The red oak marks on the northwest shore of Lake Mendota marks a spot where an early trading post once stood, and where Col. Henry Dodge gathered 5,000 Winnebago Indians in 1832 to ask them to keep the peace during the Black Hawk Rebellion.  A hunting lodge on the site still stands.



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