Six on Saturday: Timber! III

At the end of May, Six on Saturday – Timber! II, ended with a precariously disfigured bay tree. Timber!, on May 10, mentioned that most of the tree had previously broken apart and fallen on top of a big Douglas fir tree that had fallen earlier. Prior to this big mess, the bay tree had been leaning on the Douglas fir tree. Now, it just continues to deteriorate. The precariously disfigured limb that remained last May was the most recent victim of gravity. Not much of the tree remains.

1. This was what we were concerned about. The disfigured and fractured trunk twisted from leverage exerted onto it by an upper limb, which is now extended downward instead of upward.P00718-1

2. Damage was impressively minimal. An exemplary specimen of Chinese maple sustained a direct hit from the main limb of the bay tree, but also sustained only minor structural damage.P00718-2

3. The trail somehow remained passable, although closed because of the big fallen limb dangling above. As the limb was dismantled, the fractured portion of the trunk broke away and fell.P00718-3

4. This big piece of the twisted and fractured portion of the trunk looks like a canoe, and is about as big. This was suspended more than twenty-five feet up, which is why the trail was closed.P00718-4

5. What remains of the bay tree is still severely disfigured, but is not so dangerously structurally compromised. It can remain until another arborist can get here to remove it and other trees.P00718-5

6. It looks worse up close. Nonetheless, there is not much we can do about it now. The limb to the far right originates from the same trunk. The big gray trunk in the background is a tan oak.P00718-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – Solar Power

This gives a new meaning to ‘shade tree’.

Leaves are the original solar panels. They collect solar energy, and convert into useful resources. Some of those resources get converted into other resources that are good for human consumption, such as fruit, vegetables, lumber, firewood and oxygen. However, one resource that leaves do not produce is electricity.

That is why the big solar array pictured above was installed over a big parking lot. There are a few of these arrays in this parking lot, and more in other nearby parking lots. Many trees were cut down to accommodate them. People who work nearby can use the electricity more than they could use vegetation, or anything that vegetation could produce within this area.

Shade trees are nice over parking lots, but are not necessary over a parking lot that is shaded so thoroughly by such big solar arrays. After parking during rainy weather, an umbrella is only necessary between the solar arrays and the adjacent office buildings. There are no more fallen leaves to clean up. Pavement and curbs will no longer be displaced by growing roots.

The red gum that is also pictured above, under the solar array, is not so impressed. It likely grew from a root of a red gum that was removed so that the solar array could be constructed. Sadly, it must be cut down again, not only because it is under the solar array, but also because it is against the sidewalk. It has clearance problems both above and below.

It is rather ironic that even after all the trees that formerly shaded this parking lot were cut down for the installation of this solar array, this young red gum that is so determined to survive can not stay. I can not help but wonder what this young red gum thinks of green energy.

Horridculture – Spruce Up

Even Charlie Brown would reject this little blue spruce.

No one wants to cut down this little blue spruce. What is worse is that no one wants anyone else to cut it down either. We all know it is ugly. We all know that it can not be salvaged. We all know that it really should relinquish its space to the healthy and well structured coast live oak next to it, in the lower left of the picture. Yet, it remains.

It was planted amongst a herd of gold junipers in about 1980 or 1981, shortly after the construction of the adjacent buildings. An abandoned irrigation system indicates that it was likely irrigated for some time afterward, although it is impossible to know for how long. Otherwise, it and the junipers were completely ignored for the last four decades.

When the vegetable garden was installed nearby, brambles, weeds and trash that had been accumulating for forty years was removed from the area. A few of the most decrepit junipers that were not worth salvaging were removed too. The young and feral coast live oak that grew next to the spruce should have been removed as well, but is actually in very good condition.

Furthermore, the coast live oak is a better tree for the particular application. It is native, so does not mind neglect. The spruce was never really happy there, which is why it is so puny and disfigured now, with the lower two thirds of the trunk bare of limbs and foliage. Obviously, the spruce should be removed so that the oak can continue to develop as it should.

We just like the spruce too much to remove it directly. Even though it would look silly if the bare trunk were exposed by the removal of the oak, the bit of foliage on top is so pretty and blue and familiar. I mean, it looks like we have a spruce in the yard; and everyone likes a spruce!

The plan is to subordinate it to the oak. As the oak grows upward and outward, the lower limbs of the spruce will be pruned away to maintain clearance. Eventually, the spruce will look so silly that the landscape would look better without it, and we will not mind cutting it down so much. It will be unpleasant, but it will be better than interfering with the development of the oak.


“111”? . . . “777”? . . . “TTT”? . . . “LLL”?

What does this mean? Is it ‘111’ deprived of the lower serifs? Is it ‘777’ with abbreviated arms? . . . ‘TTT’ lacking right arms? . . . ‘LLL’ with abbreviated legs? Is it pointing toward something important? Is a hieroglyph from an ancient language . . . or a language that has yet to be invented?! Is it like a miniature crop circle pattern cut into wood by Sasquatch or extraterrestrials?!

The arborist who left it here after cutting down the deceased ponderosa pine that formerly stood where this large stump remains might be amused to read that I contemplated it so intently. Actually, I did not really contemplate it so much. I only wrote about it as if I did because it is amusing to do so. I have no idea what this hieroglyph represents. I know that it is not important.

I have worked with enough respectable arborists to know that some of them prefer to leave their distinctive marks on the stumps of some of the impressively large trees that they cut down. In many of the suburban regions in which I work, most of such stumps get ground out shortly afterward. In the forested rural area here, such stumps remain until they rot and disintegrate.

On rare occasion, I encounter a familiar hieroglyph or the initials of a respected colleague. Now that we are as old as we are, familiar hieroglyphs are increasingly rare. Arboriculture is for the young. I sometime wonder about those who leave unfamiliar hieroglyphs. To me, the continuation of the tradition seems to indicate that they enjoy their work as much as my colleagues did.

That is important in horticultural industries. There are few in society who understand the appeal. We do what we do because it is what we enjoy.

Six on Saturday: Timber! II


Horticulture is not all flowery. It includes arboriculture, which is the horticulture of trees. As both a horticulturist and arborist, I get t0 work with it all. Not only do I work with arboriculture, but I get to work part of the time in forests of coastal redwoods, which are the tallest trees in the World. Compared to these redwoods, Douglas firs are rather average.

1. At about noon on May 7, this big Douglas fir fell unexpectedly. Since it was not cut down intentionally, no one actually yelled “Timber!”. This picture is recycled from a post from May 10.P00510-1

2. This is what it looks like now. Even though a bay tree fell on top of the Douglas fir and bridge after the picture above was taken, damage was minimal. Parts of the banister were replaced.P00530-2

3. The Douglas fir was less than eighty years old. It started growing here in the early 1940s. My grandparents might have met it when it was a baby. By the way, I did not count all the rings.P00530-3

4. The carcass of the Douglas fir is now more than twenty feet below. The light brown chips to the upper left are from the top of the tree that needed to be cleared from an adjacent roadway.P00530-4

5. This unfortunate maple really was an exemplary young specimen before it got clobbered by the big Douglas fir and bay tree. Not only are the limbs stripped off, but the trunk is fractured.P00530-5

6. The third trunk from the left is what remains of the bay tree that was leaning on the Douglas fir, and then fell on top of it. The top limb extending to the right is now about to break too.P00530-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Streets Are Cooler With Shade

Parked cars stay cooler in shade.

There really is no such thing as a perfect tree. Some are not quite as messy as others. Some have better structural integrity than others. Some have gentle roots; and some stay proportionate to tight spots. However, without exception, all trees grow, drop leaves, and disperse roots.

This is an important consideration when selecting any tree, and especially when selecting a street tree for the narrow space between the curb and the sidewalk (which is commonly known as a park strip). Even where there is no sidewalk, or where the sidewalk is at the curb, most of the obstacles are the same.

Street trees should have reasonably complaisant roots that should not be likely to damage curbs, sidewalks or roadways, at least for several years. They should naturally develop reasonably high branches. They will need to be pruned higher than trucks that may park at the curb. Street trees must also tolerate harsh exposure.

Wider park strips can of course accommodate larger trees. Those that are only two feet wide or narrower are probably not wide enough for any tree larger than photinia, purple-leaf plum or English hawthorn, which are difficult to prune for clearance over roadways and sidewalks.

Messy leaves, flowers or fruit that might not be a problem within the garden might be more of a problem at the curb. It is not so easy to rake such debris if cars park over it. Trees that are commonly infested with scale or aphid are likely to drop sticky honeydew (scale and aphid poop) onto parked cars.

Unfortunately, those who get street trees do not always get to select them. Many municipalities assign specific trees to specific streets. Some streets have a few trees to choose from. Others have only one option. Home Owners’ Associations (HOAs) decide if and where new trees get planted.

Crape myrtle is probably the most common choice for a new street tree because the roots do not get big enough to damage pavement. However, the canopies are not very big either. They stay too low to be pruned above trucks. Crape myrtle is susceptible to scale infestation that can get bad enough to make sidewalks sticky.

For many years, London plane (sycamore) had been another popular street tree. Unfortunately, the voracious roots can damage pavement within only a few years. The messy foliage discolors and starts to fall before autumn.

Multi Trunk Trees Seem Natural

Overgrown shrubbery becomes multi trunk trees.

For several years in the late 1960 and early 1970s, European white birch were trendy. Most lived in ubiquitous groups of three. Where three did not fit, a single multi trunk tree, typically with three trunks, was a popular option. Each multi trunk tree provided as many trunks as a few single trunk trees. For these particular white birch, the elegant white trunks were their most appealing feature.

Multi trunk trees, which are popularly known as ‘multis’, are only structurally different from their counterparts with single trunks. Multi trunk crape myrtle are genetically identical to crape myrtle of the same cultivar, but with single trunks. The only difference is that multi trunk trees branch at ground level, instead of at the top of a single straight trunk. Each needs to be pruned to the desired form.

Multi trunk birch, paperbark and lemon gum exhibit appealing bark. More trunks display more bark than single trunks. Multi trunk strawberry tree, olive and oak exhibit appealingly sculptural form. Cork oak and crape myrtle provide both appealing bark and sculptural form. Silk tree, acacia and deciduous magnolia display their bloom more effectively with lower and broader multi trunk form.

Trees get help to develop into a desired form. European white birch, lemon gum and silk tree are more likely to develop single trunks naturally. Coppicing compels them to regenerate with several trunks. Conversely, olive, crape myrtle and strawberry tree develop a few trunks naturally. Single trunk trees need thinning to remove the superfluous trunks, and staking to straighten a single trunk.

In home gardens, multi trunk trees sometimes evolve from overgrown shrubbery. Pineapple guava may be shrubby for may years before lower growth gets pruned away to reveal sculptural trunks within. English laurel that gets too overgrown for containment pruning might become a delightful multi trunk tree instead. It will be pleased to grow freely from the top if lower growth gets pruned off.

Multi trunk trees are no more natural than trees with single trunks are, but they seem to be.


This is a bit more than just slightly inconvenient. The trail continues forward from here, with another trail up the stairs to the right.

It is that time of year. Warming weather accelerates vascular activity, which makes foliage heavier. If evapotranspiration is inhibited by humidity and a lack of wind, the foliage can get too heavy to be supported by the trees that produce it. All that increasing weight can bring down big limbs or entire trees at the most unexpected times. The process is spontaneous limb failure.

By ‘unexpected’, I mean that it happens when there is no wind. It is startling because broken limbs and fallen trees are typically associated with wind rather than a lack of it. Gentle wind actually accelerates evapotranspiration, which relives affected vegetation of some of its weight and susceptibility to spontaneous limb failure. Aridity helps too, by absorbing more moisture.

Of course, even a gentle breeze at the wrong time can have disastrous results for vegetation that is already about to succumb to spontaneous limb failure. I suspect that is what happened here, since the air was not completely still at the time. It was just a bit warmer than it had been, and slightly more humid than typical. It is too late and pointless to analyze the situation now.

This is the top of the stairs that are to the right in the picture above.

At about noon on Thursday, someone who works nearby alerted me to the sound a a big tree falling. I was in the same neighborhood, but was driving by with the radio on. The tree is precisely where I was told it would be. No one was nearby when it fell. Damage was originally minimal, with a portion of trail displaced by roots, and a rail on a bridge crushed by the trunk.

By ‘originally’, I mean that this was not the extent of the damage. After barricading the trails and road leading to the site, and leaving, we heard another loud crash from the same location as a bay tree that had been leaning against the already fallen fir tree collapsed in pieces on top of the whole mess. Fortunately, the damage to the bridge, although worse, is not too terribly bad.

There is more timber here than lumber. The short section of main trunk is severely fractures. The double trunks beyond are not as big as they look.

Grande Finale

They still bloom spectacularly.

This is the third spring that I got picture of this pair of flowering cherry trees in bloom. I took several pictures last year, ranging from closeup pictures of the flowers, to pictures taken from a distance like the picture above. Fewer pictures were taken during the previous spring of 2018, before these trees were groomed of copious necrosis. Sadly, this picture will be one of the last.

The trees will be cut down this year. They stayed just long enough to bloom this one last season, but will not likely be here much longer. They are deteriorating at such a rate that if I were to prune the necrosis away after bloom, there would not be much remaining. The tree to the right in this picture would be only a rotten stump with a few limber twigs protruding from the top.

Structural integrity has been so compromised by decay that, even without the weight of all the limbs that have been pruned back during the past many years, the trunks could easily break off at the ground. When I remove them, I will likely just push the tree to the right over without cutting it first. If there were any branches left, a kid could knock it over by trying to climb it.

As much as I would prefer for these trees to last much longer, I want to install their replacements as soon as possible. Planting them this spring would give them all summer to disperse roots and grow a little bit before blooming next spring. I know they will not be much to look at for a few years, but many years from now, they might be as spectacular as these two originals were.

Regardless, it will be a saddening task to cut down these distinguished trees.


It really looks like something erupted from within!

That was a scary movie back when horror movies really were scary! The first appearance of the baby alien was the creepiest part and one of the scariest scenes! It is too disturbing and gory to describe here. Those who have seen it may have noticed how it might seem to be weirdly relevant to the cavity that opened in the rotting trunk of this deteriorating flowering cherry tree.

With a bit more distance, the rotting trunk looks sort of like an associate of ‘H. R. Pufnstuf’ after an interaction with a baby alien. If you can remember who H. R. Pufnstuf was, you probably shouldn’t. He starred in his own television show for children on Saturday morning in the 1970s. It was disturbingly weird and perhaps even inappropriate for the children it was intended for.

So, it is both rotten and unsightly.

With even more distance, it is obvious that this is nothing to joke about. This is one of two flowering cherry trees that I have been so protective of, and put so much work into temporarily salvaging. Both should have been removed and replaced years ago. This project was scheduled for after bloom in 2018, postponed until after bloom in 2019, and has yet to be done even now.

The problem is that these trees are so popular and so appreciated by the Community. They have been here in the most prominent spot in the neighborhood for several decades. There are not many who remember when the trees were young. No one seems to remember before the trees were here. They are as historical as the older buildings. I can not bear to cut them down.

As you can see, there is no choice now, at least for this particular tree. It is already so decayed that it can barely support its own weight.

As pretty as the bloom is, the disfigured branch structure and trunk are no longer appealing.