Monday, January 31, 2011

The Tree Year: Bark Life Part I

"Those who have ventured beyond the great North Woods, out on the arctic prairies, where all the rivers fall into the polar sea or Hudson Bay, tell us of the surprising beauty of the isolated groves of Balsam Poplar there. How fair it must look then is something we can hardly realize when we encounter this species in the United States, for even when it is a fine tree…it is still a forest tree, crowded upon by others…" ~Donald Peattie, A Natural History of Trees

I spent some time in the park on Saturday observing my trees. This time I got up close and personal with them examining the colour and texture of the bark.
There's so much going on with this balsam poplar.
I love the blue and gold lichens growing all around the trunk.

This tree bears some cool looking scars where chunks of deeply fissured outer bark have broken off.

This deep orange streak is interesting.

Balsam poplars are often planted in parks because the upper branches are attractively smooth and pale coloured and the trees give off a lovely smell when the buds open in the springtime, due to the high resin content and other constituents in the buds. This is what also give the buds their medicinal properties.

Poplars are fast growing, cold-hardy trees. They are the northernmost occurring trees of all The North American hardwoods. They require a lot of sunshine and like wet areas but can get by in drier soil. As a timber tree they are valued for use in making plywood, wafer board, veneer, pulp, and in construction. There is potential to use these trees in soil stabilization projects as well.

In the wild, balsam poplars are eaten by moose, deer, and snowshoe hare in small amounts, with moose stripping bark in times of winter food shortage and used by beavers for food and building materials. Other animals browse balsam poplar like some rodents, elk and ruffed grouse. From what I've read, it's mostly the twigs and stems that are eaten. The leaves are eaten less and the resin in the buds is a deterrent to snowshoe hares.

Next up, I'll post the catalpa pics I took...


Marvin said...

Much character in the balsam poplar's bark, especially when accented by lichens.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful bark and lichen close-ups!