Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Lowdown on Trees 1-11-2016

Photo to be posted at a later date

     I bought a tree years ago, something called a Bradford pear tree!  The darn thing hasn’t produced a pear yet.  It does produce a pretty white blossom in the spring, outside my office window where it has grown from just a twig to a tree about fifteen feet tall and four or five inches diameter at the base.
     Most years it seems as if those white blossoms last just about long enough to know they were there… yesterday.  And gone tomorrow.  Here on Lightnin’ Ridge there are redbuds everywhere.  I’d like to have a few white blossoms in the mix because on this whole ridgetop there are only two wild dogwoods.  One of them is a giant, with two weeks of beautiful white blossoms.  Redbuds last as long or longer.
     Some young kid was here last week telling me that Bradford pear trees were an invasive species and it is not wise to buy and plant them, even though twenty years ago, many of us white-blossom lovers did.  He said birds spread the fruit, and from those trees others can emerge from underground runners and you can have a mess, because the second generation of trees can have, usually do have, THORNS!
     I have to take it seriously because this young guy by the name of Ryan Guthrie works at a giant nursery and tree farm in Rogersville, Missouri where he sells all kinds of trees.
     From Ryan, I bought only the second tree I ever bought, a great big beautiful sweet gum tree.  I lost a giant 200-year-old post-oak tree last year.  I miss it.  The hole which it left in the sky is just not tolerable on this ridge where I live and work.  There are so many species of trees up here that the trail which winds in a circle around these twenty acres passes about thirty different species, maybe more. 
     But there are no sweet gums, a tree that is so beautiful in fall color that I have missed it horribly since I left Arkansas twenty-five years ago.  Arkansas had a bunch of them!
     Ryan had a bunch of them too, at his tree farm, and he gave me a heck of a buy on one of the genetically altered trees which do not shed those awful seed balls everywhere.  A sweet gum tree without balls, twenty feet tall and a ten- or twelve-foot spread, four inches in diameter at the base, weighs about 2000 pounds and will have to be hauled from his place to mine on a trailer and planted in a fifty-inch wide hole thirty inches deep.  It needs to be done in February, so I have been digging that hole since Christmas.  I have it fifty inches across, that was easy.  But so far I have only got it about six inches deep.
     The recent freeze-up has slowed my progress.  What I need is Matt Dillon, one of my idols in boyhood from ‘Gunsmoke’.  Did you ever notice how many graves he dug in only minutes?  He always set out to bring the outlaws to court in Dodge City but brother did he ever bury a bunch of them.
     Any way, when it thaws out I will have the hole dug in time for my new sweet gum tree in February.
     Ryan guarantees that next fall, after all the beautiful leaves from other trees have fallen I will have leaves of orange, red, yellow and purple still on the branches of my sweet gum.  I am pretty excited about that.  It makes fall last longer.
     Ryan is awfully young to know more about any tree than I do.  We got to talking about buck deer damage to trees, and he says some that he sells have to be guarded with wire fences.  He has promised to sell me a big white pine tree, which will also be a first for Lightnin’ Ridge.  When any kind of pine or spruce with a ground-level trunk diameter under five or six inches is planted in white-tail country, it is in danger of being killed by some antler-raking buck between September and December.  If you see some country folks with a small pine tree five or six feet tall surrounded by a seven-foot fence, you now know why.
      I have an apple tree which deer favor in October, eating more of the apples than I do.  They rear up on hind legs and shake the limbs so that apples fall to the ground.  This always takes place at night or I would eat fried apples with venison steaks quite often in October.
     This might be a good time to mention that buck deer are said to rub their antlers against small saplings as a way to rub away the blood-engorged soft velvet that shrinks up and dries as the antlers harden.  That is true to a great extent, but bucks attack those places which we hunters recognize as ‘buck rubs’ as late as mid-December.  They do much of that antler rubbing in November when the rut is in full force and not one little piece of dried up velvet remains.  I have seen more buck rubs on my place that were made in November than all the ones made in September and October combined.  That’s because they use these small saplings as both imaginary adversaries and scent posts.  They rub scent from glands around the eyes where it can readily be recognized as one buck’s domain and avenue of travel.  I have seen bucks with glistening white, rock-hard antlers attack small saplings like they were mock fighting with another buck, then watch them rub their eyes against that same sapling or young cedar before they leave.  It is true that when you find small saplings an inch or two in diameter, those rubs have been created by smaller bucks as a rule.  And as a rule, when you see a buck-rub that has occurred on a four- to six-inch tree, it has been done by a deer with bigger and stronger antlers.
     Unlike most outdoor writers who learn too much from what they have read, I know this from what I have SEEN.  Cleaning velvet from antlers has nothing to do with the majority of rubs bucks make because most are done long after velvet is gone. 
     But there is no young tree a buck seeks out for those attacks that he favors more than a young pine or spruce.  I don’t know why, but I have a theory which may or may not hold water having to do with the sap.
     If you want a tree, now is the time to get and transplant one.  Ryan says he has about two hundred four-to five-inch-diameter trees up to twenty feet tall.  Most are red maple, river birch, and white pine.  He can’t let them grow much longer and still transplant them so he will sell them for the next month at half-price, which is 200 to 250 dollars.  Contact him at Willow Green Nursery at Rogersville, Missouri and you can really learn a lot about trees.  Ask him why Ozarkians shouldn’t transplant a tree from Texas.

     By the way, I am making a flier now with info about our Panther Creek Wilderness Adventure Area for underprivileged children and also a flier with a map for our big Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in March.  If you want to reserve one of our free tables at the swap meet to sell outdoor gear and equipment of any sort you need to let me know soon. 
     If you want either of these fliers, write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at

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