Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Redwood Community

 I went to Montgomery Woods yesterday to see if any mushrooms had grown after a light rainfall over the weekend. I didn't notice any major changes, but did want to record a few observations.
 The most interesting and colorful mushrooms in my opinion seem to grow in places where it is especially cool and damp. The temperature seems to change all over the place in the woods. The cool damp air seems to settle along the streams and riverbanks, and in various bowls, depressions, and notches in the forest. You can eye ball them. Some places are extraordinarily damp. Just a few feet away however, or a few feet up a hillside, and the air is noticeably warmer and drier.
 The redwood trees seem to love flood plains especially, and thrive in areas that are flat, near rivers and streams that I assume must flood often in the winter. Large trees still grow on the hillsides, but my hunch is that they really like these floodplains. Obviously, water plays a vital role in their growth.
 The redwoods, like all trees, seem to love the sunlight when they can reach it. If there is a break in the canopy for whatever reason, the trees often shoot their branches off in a wild display of freedom, like they are waving their arms dancing, reaching for the sun.
 Some of the younger redwoods shoot straight up like arrows sometimes. One tree in particular had all of its branches tightly compressed to its body, and only had a few branches reaching out on one side near the top, catching a little bit of sun.
 I have to wonder what goes on in a redwood community. Is it every tree for himself, or are they all working together, helping one another reach their potential. There seems to be strength in numbers. There is an incredible amount of debris on the redwood forest floor as well, so many needles, branches, and trees.
 I would guess that this redwood debris acts as fertilizer for the rest of the redwoods although I should probably check on that. I could see a community of redwoods trying to expand its habitat, slowly showering the earth with branches, fallen trees and pine cones, in the process claiming acre after acre until they reach the edge of where Mother Nature will allow them to grow. Then she will say, "Ok, you've gone far enough, I can't send you any more rain and fog, this land is for someone else."
Is it possible that the dormant pine cone seeds become envious of their giant relatives? An old growth redwood can produce 100,000 cones each year. There are about 100 seeds per cone. 90% of the seeds will not be fertile and the rest must find perfect conditions to germinate. Perhaps in their collective anger, they add fuel for a chance lightning strike that sets the woods ablaze, finally making room and giving them a chance to grow. Although that seems unlikely. That's what I find so interesting. If so few seeds actually germinate, perhaps the trees are like any caring mother, and do whatever is in their power to see the new tree into adulthood. It doesn't make sense that anything would reproduce only to kill it's offspring by taking all the resources that require it to live.
 In these old groves, the community of redwoods seem to do a pretty good job of finding enough room for everybody, allowing each individual to reach for the heavens. Except of course when one falls down crushing several others in its wake, but that is a different story for another time!

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