Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Candles in the bog

On the spur of the moment, on finding the parking lot at the mall crowded with cars lined up waiting for spots, we changed our minds and went down to Burns Bog instead. We weren't prepared, and the only camera we had was the tiny, pocket-sized Sony. And it was so long since I'd used it that I forgot to check its settings, so the flash was set to "Always". In the blazing sun, this doesn't work so well.

No matter; it was an interesting afternoon; I'll have more to say about it later on. For now, this:

We came across an unusual pine tree in an area that had been mostly paved over long, long ago.

Treetop, festooned with "candles".

This may be a variation of the shore pine, Pinus contorta. The needles come in pairs (look closely at the base of the cone below), and are about 3 inches long, slightly curved or twisted. Lodgepole pine needles also come in pairs, but the tree is usually taller and straighter, and not so likely to be found here on the coast.

The trunk and branches are crooked, the bark scaly, brown or grey depending on the light. So far, so good.

Where it seems not to match up, is in the large cones. The erect cones at the tips of the branches are the short-lived male cones. They are about as long as the needles, 3 inches tall or more. Each one, at the tip, wears a clump of shorter needles.

As we moved about the tree, we could see a cloud of pollen being released. I shook a cone on purpose; yellow pollen sprayed everywhere. The cone was sticky and mildly scented.

Male cone, with topknot. Sorry about the glare.

Each pollen grain shields a sperm cell. The grains float on the wind to reach a female cone and fertilize the ovules, deep between the scales. The male cone then disintegrates, while the female matures and becomes woody. Each scale will have a pair of seeds at the base, which, if this is a shore pine, will be released once it matures. (The cones of the Lodgepole pine stay closed for years until a forest fire splits them open.)

Cropped from top photo. Some branches have clusters of "candles". At the base, on two of these branches, are a couple or three fat female cones.

Tangled, rubbery branches, brown, scaly bark.

My guide says, about the shore pine,
"On some peat-bogs*, shore pine forms stunted forests where 100-year-old trees my be less than 5 cm. in diameter."
*Such as Burns Bog, where we found this one.

1 comment:

  1. I do love the candles on the trees this time of the year. And the ones without candles have new tips - looks like they have put on their fresh fingernail polish.


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