The Overstory

So many wonder trees mentioned in "The Overstory", I thought a gallery might be of interest. As I read and encounter various trees I will add them. If you find a picture that would be of interest, please send the link or a scan to me.



The Overstory Album

American Chestnut

A special monument was unveiled at Mills & Mills Memorial Park, Tumwater, WA in honor of two of the largest and oldest living American Chestnut trees in the Unites States. The public dedication ceremony took place Friday, Feb. 20 at noon and included Don Trosper, a descendant of the Trosper family, President of the Tumwater Historical Association Corinne Tobeck, and Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet. Premier Memorial, a leading supplier of cemetery and public memorials graciously donated the new monument. Towering more than 80 feet tall, the two trees were planted by original settlers of Tumwater who brought chestnut seeds from the east coast. In 1846, Jesse Ferguson planted the two trees on 320 acres he claimed on the Bush Prairie. Today, the trees symbolize the legacy of early Tumwater, one of the first settlements in Washington.

Chestnut Blight

Chestnut Blight Facts There is no effective method of treating chestnut blight. Once a tree contracts the disease, there is nothing we can do but watch it decline and die. The prognosis is so bleak that when experts are asked how to prevent chestnut blight, their only advice is to avoid planting chestnut trees altogether.

Accidentally imported from Asia, the disease was first observed in 1904 in the New York Zoological Gardens. By 1925 it had decimated the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) population in an area extending over 1,600 km (1,000 miles) north, south, and west of its entry point.

Caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, chestnut blight tore through Eastern and Midwestern hardwood forests, wiping out three and a half billion trees by 1940. Today, you can find root sprouts that grow from old stumps of dead trees, but the sprouts die before they are mature enough to produce nuts. Japanese and Chinese chestnuts are resistant to the disease. While they can contract the disease, they don’t show the serious symptoms seen in American chestnuts. You might not even notice the infection unless you strip the bark from an Asian tree. You might wonder why we don’t replace our American chestnuts with the resistant Asian varieties. The problem is that the Asian trees are not of the same quality. American chestnut trees were extremely important commercially because these fast-growing, tall, straight trees produced a superior lumber and a bountiful harvest of nutritious nuts that were important food for both livestock and humans. Asian trees can’t come close to matching the value of an American chestnut.

American Elm

Elms are loved for their graceful, stately shape, with branches like spreading fountains, and their green leaves that turn gold in fall. Sadly, the American elm (Ulmus americana) can no longer be recommended because it is vulnerable to a devastating pathogen called Dutch elm disease. However, due in part to research at The Morton Arboretum, other species and hybrids that are more resistant to the disease are available for planting. The biggest lesson learned from the devastation of Dutch elm disease is the importance of having a variety of trees along streets, in parks, and in home landscapes so that no disease or pest that may arrive can kill a large proportion of the trees. The American elm was the most popular tree to plant in the booming cities of the 19th century, so that by the 20th century many streets were lined with only elms and were shaded in summer by a cathedral-like ceiling of their branches. When Dutch elm disease (which actually originated in Asia) spread to the US in the 1950s, it was able to mow down elm after elm through their grafted root systems or with the help of a beetle. Today, arborists and foresters are careful to plant a diverse range of trees that will not all be vulnerable to any particular pest, disease or weather conditions.

Surviving American Elm-New Haven

Dutch elm disease (DED) is a fungal disease that has ravaged the American elm, causing catastrophic die-offs in cities across the range. It has been estimated that only approximately 1 in 100,000 American elm trees is DED-tolerant, most known survivors simply having escaped exposure to the disease. However, in some areas still not infested by DED, the American elm continues to thrive, notably in Florida, Alberta and British Columbia. There is a notable grove of old-growth American elm trees in Manhattan's Central Park. The trees there were apparently spared because of the grove's isolation in such an intensely urban setting. The American elm is particularly susceptible to disease because the period of infection often coincides with the period, approximately 30 days, of rapid terminal growth when new springwood vessels are fully functional. Spores introduced outside of this period remain largely static within the xylem and are thus relatively ineffective. The American elm's biology in some ways has helped to spare it from obliteration by DED, in contrast to what happened to the American chestnut with the chestnut blight. The elm's seeds are largely wind-dispersed, and the tree grows quickly and begins bearing seeds at a young age. It grows well along roads or railroad tracks, and in abandoned lots and other disturbed areas, where it is highly tolerant of most stress factors. Elms have been able to survive and to reproduce in areas where the disease had eliminated old trees, although most of these young elms eventually succumb to the disease at a relatively young age. There is some reason to hope that these elms will preserve the genetic diversity of the original population, and that they eventually will hybridize with DED-resistant varieties that have been developed or that occur naturally. After 20 years of research, American scientists first developed DED-resistant strains of elms in the late 1990s. Elms in forest and other natural areas have been less affected by DED than trees in urban environments due to lower environmental stress from pollution and soil compaction and due to occurring in smaller, more isolated populations. Fungicidal injections can be administered to valuable American elms, to prevent infection. Such injections generally are effective as a preventive measure for up to three years when performed before any symptoms have appeared, but may be ineffective once the disease is evident.

Situated just a short drive from our Hawaii condos is Lahaina Banyan Court Park. Although it is a popular gathering spot year round, many winter visitors love to go there in December. It’s that time of year when city officials decorate all of the park’s famous Indian banyan trees with holiday lights and host special Christma themed events . So in anticipation of that wonderful time of year, we wanted to talk briefly about the trees. Believe it or not, some of them have been growing there for far more than a century.

Legend has it that the very first one was planted in the late 1800s as a tribute to the tireless efforts of all the missionaries that met with island residents starting in 1820. The man credited with making the tribute happen was a former American missionary and Massachusetts Agricultural College graduate turned Maui sheriff. His name was William Owen Smith. Over the years, his single planting did what banyan trees do best, grow and spread out. So much so, that it is widely considered to be the largest, oldest tree of its kind in all the U.S.

This brings us to a quick look at the nature of banyan trees. Considered to be India’s national tree, it is part of the fig family, which makes it dependent on other trees and fig wasps for its survival. It also has a history of growing extremely tall and wide with multiple trunks to its credit. That’s why the tree in Lahaina Banyan Court Park. currently boasts at least 16 trunks. And interestingly enough, the trees have also long been used by merchants and others as a gathering place. Obviously, it’s a practice that continues in Lahaina to this day.

In the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, tourists flock to see what at first glance looks like an expansive forest. Branches create an expansive canopy over the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden — about the size of a Manhattan city block. But the most interesting thing about this collection of plant life is that it's not a collection at all; it's one massive tree, known simply as the Great Banyan Tree, and all those apparently distinct members of a forest are actually one of 3,600 aerial roots. "The largest banyan tree can be found growing in a botanical garden near Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), occupies the better part of five acres, and is more than 250 years old," Erin Alvarez and Bart Schutzman, both lecturers in the environmental horticulture department at the University of Florida,

The Strangler Fig is mentioned briefly in the Neelay Mehta chapter. It may be related to the Banyan.The first is Angkor Wat, a twelfth century temple in Cambodia. (shared by Dave Ross)

Strangling another tree in Australia. (Thanks to Dave Ross for sharing.)

This is a Giant Sequoia or Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite. There are two species of Redwood in the Western US. The other one, which is featured in our story, is the Coastal Redwood or California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).  They are of similar height and girth, but of different genus.  Information from Wikipedia.(Thanks to Dave Ross for sharing.)

The evergreen oak (Quercus Ilex) is a tree of the family Fagaceae, with perennial leaves, typical of the Mediterranean area. So that, in Spain this is the commonest forest species: around three million hectares of oak woods distributed all over the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. It is also called carrasca, chaparra or chaparro. It is a medium-length tree, which may reach 16 to 25 metres high, mainly cultivated in order to obtain its fruits, the well-known acorns. It is a very long-live tree, since in Spain we have specimens possibly aging a thousand years. Evergreen oaks are usually grown and well-tended in meadows, where their acorns are used to feed the cattle, mainly pigs. Pigs fed exclusively with acorns in meadows produce the best cured ham, internationally known as “pata negra” (black-legged ham). Firewood from evergreen oaks is also used to make an excellent coal. Its wood is very hard and it doesn’t get rot, although it’s difficult to work on, so it is mainly used to make pieces which withstand big efforts and frictions, such as carriages, ploughs, parquet floorings, beams, and so on. In their natural state, evergreen oaks form vast and very dense forests, along with other typical species of the Mediterranean forest such as pines, rockroses, etc… Moreover, these forests are the best habitat for the Mediterranean fauna, and therefore some of them are ideal hunting preserves while others are the most highly-protected natural reserves. The oak wood is the main ecosystem in several protected natural reserves in Spain, such as the Cabañeros Natural Park, located in our community, Castile- La Mancha.

The evergreen oak (Quercus Ilex) acorns.

Leaf of Encina tree. Sometime referred to as round leaf.

Douglas Fir. Pseudotsuga menziesii is an evergreen conifer species in the pine family, Pinaceae. It is native to western North America and is known as Douglas fir, Douglas-fir, Oregon pine, and Columbian pine. There are three varieties: coast Douglas-fir (P. menziesii var. menziesii), Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (P. menziesii var. glauca) and Mexican Douglas fir (P. menziesii var. lindleyana).

The common name honors David Douglas, a Scottish botanist and collector who first reported the extraordinary nature and potential of the species. The common name is misleading since it is not a true fir, i.e., not a member of the genus Abies. For this reason the name is often written as Douglas-fir (a name also used for the genus Pseudotsuga as a whole). The specific epithet menziesii is after Archibald Menzies, a Scottish physician and rival naturalist to David Douglas. Menzies first documented the tree on Vancouver Island in 1791. Colloquially, the species is also known simply as Doug fir or Douglas pine[ (although the latter common name may also refer to Pinus douglasiana). Other names for this tree have included Oregon pine, British Columbian pine, Puget Sound pine, Douglas spruce, false hemlock, red fir, or red pine (although again the latter may refer to a different tree species—Pinus resinosa). One Coast Salish name for the tree, used in the Halkomelem language, is lá:yelhp. In the Lushootseed language, the tree is called čəbidac.

Douglas-firs are medium-size to extremely large evergreen trees, 20–100 metres (70–330 ft) tall (although only coast Douglas-firs reach such great heights). The leaves are flat, soft, linear, 2–4 centimetres (3⁄4–1 1⁄2 in) long, generally resembling those of the firs, occurring singly rather than in fascicles; they completely encircle the branches, which can be useful in recognizing the species. As the trees grow taller in denser forest, they lose their lower branches, such that the foliage may start high off the ground. Douglas-firs in environments with more light may have branches much closer to the ground. Douglas-fir female cone The female cones are pendulous, with persistent scales, unlike those of true firs. They are distinctive in having a long tridentine (three-pointed) bract that protrudes prominently above each scale (it resembles the back half of a mouse, with two feet and a tail).


Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii, the coast Douglas-fir, grows in the coastal regions from west-central British Columbia southward to central California. In Oregon and Washington, its range is continuous from the eastern edge of the Cascades west to the Pacific Coast Ranges and Pacific Ocean. In California, it is found in the Klamath and California Coast Ranges as far south as the Santa Lucia Range, with a small stand as far south as the Purisima Hills in Santa Barbara County.[15][16] One of the last remaining old growth stands of conifers is in the Mattole Watershed, and is under threat of logging.[17][18] In the Sierra Nevada, it ranges as far south as the Yosemite region. It occurs from near sea level along the coast to 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above sea level in the mountains of California. Another variety exists further inland, Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca, the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir or interior Douglas-fir. Interior Douglas-fir intergrades with coast Douglas-fir in the Cascades of northern Washington and southern British Columbia, and from there ranges northward to central British Columbia and southeastward to the Mexican border, becoming increasingly disjunct as latitude decreases and altitude increases. Mexican Douglas-fir (P. lindleyana), which ranges as far south as Oaxaca, is often considered a variety of P. menziesii.


Douglas fir female cone.

Pinus ponderosa, commonly known as the ponderosa pine, bull pine, blackjack pine, western yellow-pine, or filipinus pine is a very large pine tree species of variable habitat native to mountainous regions of western North America. It is the most widely distributed pine species in North America. Pinus ponderosa grows in various erect forms from British Columbia southward and eastward through 16 western U.S. states and has been successfully introduced in temperate regions of Europe. It was first documented in modern science in 1826 in eastern Washington near present-day Spokane (of which it is the official city tree). On that occasion, David Douglas misidentified it as Pinus resinosa (red pine). In 1829, Douglas concluded that he had a new pine among his specimens and coined the name Pinus ponderosa for its heavy wood. In 1836, it was formally named and described by Charles Lawson, a Scottish nurseryman. It is the official state tree of Montana.

Pinus ponderosa is a large coniferous pine (evergreen) tree. The bark helps to distinguish it from other species. Mature to over-mature individuals have yellow to orange-red bark in broad to very broad plates with black crevices. Younger trees have blackish-brown bark, referred to as "blackjacks" by early loggers. Ponderosa pine's five subspecies, as classified by some botanists, can be identified by their characteristically bright-green needles (contrasting with blue-green needles that distinguish Jeffrey pine). The Pacific subspecies has the longest—7.8 in (19.8 cm)—and most flexible needles in plume-like fascicles of three. The Columbia ponderosa pine has long—4.7–8.1 in (12.0–20.5 cm)—and relatively flexible needles in fascicles of three. The Rocky Mountains subspecies has shorter—3.6–5.7 in (9.2–14.4 cm)—and stout needles growing in scopulate (bushy, tuft-like) fascicles of two or three. The southwestern subspecies has 4.4–7.8 in (11.2–19.8 cm), stout needles in fascicles of three (averaging 2.7–3.5 in (69–89 mm)). The central High Plains subspecies is characterized by the fewest needles (1.4 per whorl, on average); stout, upright branches at narrow angles from the trunk; and long green needles—5.8–7.0 in (14.8–17.9 cm)—extending farthest along the branch, resembling a fox tail. Needles are widest, stoutest, and fewest (averaging 2.2–2.8 in (56–71 mm)) for the species.

Ponderosa pine cone.

Pine cones compared.

Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine) From Dave Ross, "This plays a role in the story of Ray and Dorothy, who live in St. Paul. Looking at the range map (Wikipedia) I suspect many of our members may not be familiar with it. I grew up with it in Michigan and learned to identity it as the only pine with five needles in a bundle. It was said to produce the finest softwood lumber. (The yellow pines in the south are actually hardwood.)"

Ginkgo biloba tree, also known as the maidenhair tree. It is found in fossils dating back 270 million years. Native to China, the tree is widely cultivated, and was cultivated early in human history. It has various uses in traditional medicine and as a source of food.

Ginkgo biloba. This is the only surviving member of an ancient genus, which is unrelated to anything else. (Dave Ross)

Close-up of Ginkgo tree bearing ripe, fruit-like sarcotestae. The nut-like gametophytes inside the seeds are particularly esteemed in Asia, and are a traditional Chinese food. Ginkgo nuts are used in congee, and are often served at special occasions such as weddings and the Chinese New Year (as part of the vegetarian dish called Buddha's delight). In Chinese culture, they are believed to have health benefits; some also consider them to have aphrodisiac qualities. Japanese cooks add ginkgo seeds (called ginnan) to dishes such as chawanmushi, and cooked seeds are often eaten along with other dishes. When eaten in large quantities or over a long period, the gametophyte (meat) of the seed can cause poisoning. (From Wikipedia.)