The Value of Christmas Trees

"...there is no reason why the joy associated with the Christmas evergreen may not be a means of arousing in the minds of children an appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of trees; and keen appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of trees is a long stop toward the will to plant and care for them (Arthur Sowder, US Forest Service, 1949)."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Clingman's Dome and Wild Trees

Ghostly skeletons of Frasers emerge in the fog on Clingman's Dome as young trees grow around.
I had the opportunity to visit Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this week. It had been years since I'd been there. The last time I visited, it was with Kristine Johnson with the National Park when they were treating for balsam woolly adelgid (BWA). At that time, they used insecticidal soap in the summer to treat the trees around the parking lot, walkway and tower on top of the mountain. To my knowledge, these treatments have stopped.

Treating on Clingman's Dome for BWA in early 90s with insecticidal soap.
The soap was mixed in the white vat and a powerful pump was used to spray the product on the trees.
They would spray the trees with fire hoses using many volunteers.
Hard hats were required as the pressure spray might bring down limbs.
Insecticidal soap isn't the best treatment in the summer as there are eggs present, and many survive the treatment. With soap there are no residuals to kill the crawlers that emerge from the eggs, and it takes about a month for the eggs to hatch. However in the winter when eggs aren't present the road to the top is closed. Also I'm sure there was quite a bit of damage to the natural habitat just from all the spray activity.

Today it looked different than I remembered. There weren't many tall Frasers, but there was quite a bit of healthy regrowth. Still, it looked like there was a lot more open ground than when I was there last.

Shot from the visitor center parking lot at Clingman's Dome on 8/17/11. 
We were there on a very foggy day as can be seen in this video. It is living in the fog that makes Fraser fir such a great Christmas tree. Frasers are very sensitive to dry air since they live in the clouds. They quickly shut their stomates which keep them from drying out.

The following are photographs from the visit.

The tower today. 
Lots of wildflowers are growing in areas left bare from dead trees.

The young trees coming on look good, but they are somewhat resistant to BWA as they produce juvabione.
This is an insect growth regulator that keeps the insect from becoming mature.
Larger trees stop producing juvabione and become infested.
Each white spot covers an adult female which will lay a dozen eggs or so. 
The tree in the previous picture is on the left. It has no top left. Other trees around it still do.
The loss of apical dominance is a symptom of BWA infestation.
Even with the dying trees, Clingman's Dome is a popular destination.
The steep walk to the tower and all the fog doesn't keep people from going to the top,
even if you have to stop to catch your breath along the way!


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