In my recent travels across Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, I passed through many miles of arid, high elevation country that barely sees enough precipitation to grow trees. This is the home of pinyon pines. Together with junipers, they add green to landscapes that would otherwise appear quite barren. You might think of their ecological niche as being bounded on one side by sagebrush desert and similar dry sites, and on the other side by lands with sufficient moisture for larger and more dominant tree species such as ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir.
The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you. Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.Pinyons are hardy trees, rarely larger than forty feet tall and 16 inches in diameter, often nearly as wide as they are tall. The trunk is sometimes twisted, and multiple forks are common. Given that description, one would think that they would be safe from logging. And that's true today. Pinyons are seldom cut except for occasional use as firewood. But during the mining boom-and-bust days of the late 1800s, vast areas were harvested for firewood, and to make charcoal for smelters. One historical marker near Ely, Nevada reads in part:
During the late 1870s the hills and mountains around many mining camps were completely stripped of all timber for a radius of up to 35 miles.The good news is that the trees grew back. And being younger than the undisturbed trees which can be 200 years old, they are more resistant to outbreaks of insects and disease.
Six species of pinyons grow in the western states, but four are confined to narrow ranges near the Mexican border. The most common pinyons are Pinus monophylla (singleleaf pinyon) and Pinus edulis (twoneedle pinyon). These are the species I encountered in my travels.
Let's start with the singleleaf pinyon, since it was the first species I encountered. Here is a typical pinyon-juniper forest in central Nevada:
One way to distinguish pines from other conifers (Douglas-fir, spruce, true fir, etc.) is that pines have needles in bundles of two to five, while the other conifers have single needles. Pinus monophylla is the oddball among pines. Instead of bundled needles, it has single needles.
With that, I open this forum to the readers. What's happening in your part of the world today?
"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!
After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series. As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."
"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page. Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.