March 26, 2010

Forget you're in a city at Schmitz Preserve Park and Seward Park

It's only been 18 days since my last blog entry, but I feel like I've learned far more about trees and plants than I have in the first several months of this blogs existence. It's so random how things get started sometimes. I was looking for something to read recently and came across a book  by Richard Preston, The Wild Trees. Something clicked in my mind when I read that book and I now find myself spending a few hours a week in this new hobby of learning about trees and getting out and seeing as many impressive specimens as I can. I've always enjoyed and appreciated nature greatly, but this is something different. It started off as an interest of where all of the coastal redwoods are located that are growing in the greater Seattle area, then branched off into being interested in many, many types of trees, and my interest seems to just keep growing.

So on the one hand, it's kind of a feeling of  what happenned, was that interest always there apparently and it was just a matter of running into it? Or something else?  On the other hand it feels good to be doing something new for enjoyment that I am liking so much I may want to do more than just as a hobby, without worrying about how it happenned or where its going.

For the most part, the majority of trees I'm interested in are conifers. I have a handful of books i'm working on for gradual and thorough knowledge-building, but my initial and primary source of quick info is the internet. I usually start at You want all the science, facts, and papers on ANY conifer, you will probably find it here.  As for local tree info and history, I'm enjoying , the website of Arthur Lee Jacobson. He is a lifelong resident of Seattle, an avid plant lover since his teens and has made a life of working with trees it seems. He's published a lot of plant books and a couple I want to check out are Wild Plants of Greater Seattle and Trees of Seattle. 

Ok, now for some trees. I always knew that Seward Park has some of the biggest conifers in Seattle, but just recently learned of Shmitz Preserve Park, in West Seattle. From what I understand this area has the most native concentration of trees and other plants all in one place that exist in Seattle. I've only explored this park several times, but it seems to me maybe this park has as many magnificent trees as anywhere else in Seattle. Again though, there are so many good parks that have an abundance of really big conifers, I suppose the merits of another spot can always be argued. The bottom line is that both of these parks have a great abundance of wildflowers, ferns, lichens, birdlife, and other interesting oddities that nature has served up, that tree-viewing becomes just one of the many things to take in when in these parks.

I walked in Seward yesterday and checked out the alleged 'biggest' living tree in Seattle, a Douglas Fir with a circumfurence of 23 feet . I haven't heard from anyone how tall this tree is and I don't have an inclinometer, but I'm guessing it's over 200ft. By biggest, I suppose that means overall cubic feet of wood in the tree, because I have seen thicker Douglas Firs in Lincoln Park (the thickest I've seen in Seattle, North end by beach), and I'm certain I've seen taller trees in Seattle than the tree I saw yesterday. Here's a pic of the 'biggest tree' in seattle, Seward Park. Note my girlfriend standing at the base for reference. It must be 50-60 feet to the first branch.

And here are a couple of pics of the Douglas Fir at the North end of the Beach Path in Lincoln Park. Wider trunk, but not as tall as this tree in Seward. Not sure what overall cubic feet is though, so which is bigger? This is part of the fun of it, the debating and talking about spots, sharing discoveries, good-spirited arguing about what is what.

Western Trillium in Seward Park

Western Red Cedars all over the park-Do yourself a favor and walk the various trails cutting through the center of the park rather than the outer loop only, you will see far more!

This less visited nature preserve sits in West Seattle off of Admiral Way, a couple miles West of California. There are big, wide trails for walking as well as more challenging, narrower trails. The center of the area is the shallowest, with a small creek running through, and trails run concentricly on each side. There is plenty of bushwhacking to do as well and some incredibly big downed spans of tree and trunks that are interesting to explore, but there's a lot of delicate looking plant life everywhere and I try to watch my step when off the beaten path. I've been there 3 times now but only had an hour each time-I have not even scratched the surface of what there is to see in here.

Skunk Cabbage, aka Swamp Lantern

Douglas Fir and Bigleaf Maple seemingly fused at base.

I believe this is a Grand Fir, but not certain just by the bark. Big trees for sure and they can get up to 80m tall. I would've examined the cones and leaves/needles to be sure, but a bit of a challenge with the first branches being 50ft+off the ground. This tree is broken off about 60 feet up and has a lot of reiterating trunks and a pretty crazy looking crown developing at that point now. It is shown again in the picture below this one, in the background.

Western Trillium-The flowers may appear as white at first, then a light pink or purple hue.

Downed logs throughout the park act as epiphytes for other plants and organisms. I love the variety of trees growing behind the fallen.

Well, that's it for this blog. I was going to do a little residential updating on some neat trees found here and there, and I was also going to go and shoot some Black Cottonwoods in Seattle that are supposed to be pretty big and kind of interesting trees to look at, but I have a lot of pics here already. In the meantime, check out the trunk of this Cottonwood tree my friend Pat shot on a ride through Stevensville, MT. Thanks to Pat for the first outside contribution to the blog, that is a big, big cottonwood. For those of you that don't know what the top half of a nice cottonwood tree looks like, thank you Steve for providing that. Hope you enjoy, and please feel free to comment or add your own tree info in return. The more people I can get involved in this and the more participation I can generate, the more fun we can all have with it. I'm working on getting a guest author for the blog here and there as well.

March 06, 2010

Saturday afternoon in West Seattle

I just moved into a new place in West Seattle with my girlfriend and have been looking at towering columns of boxes. It was time for a distraction and some exercise, and to look at some towering trees instead. Grabbed a couple poop-sacks and the leash and had 2 nice walks around Lincoln Park and on the beach with Max today, one in the morning, and one near sunset. I don't think there's a better park for such a wide variety of big-tree viewing in Seattle, although it's not by any means dominant as  this has to be one of the greatest big cities on the planet for tree viewing.

Here's a shot from the beach overlook in Lincoln park. I'm actually straddling the first Y of this tree and although it's only about 10 vertical feet from the base, it's overhanging a 50 foot drop. safe to get into this position but definitely shroinky!

Another shot from the beach overlook trail looking down on the beach path. Note the person walking down on the beach trail and follow your eye up heighth of the douglas firs. You can look straight into the crowns of many of these trees from the overlook,  with people walking by their bases 200 feet below on the beach trail.

I dropped my girlfriend off for work later in the afternoon and it was just too nice, and Max thought so too, whining in the backseat for another walk. So it was off near my new place to look at this massive Seqouia tree pictured below, and then back to Lincoln park for another hour of indulging the dog and tree viewing.

That's it for this day's blog, but as far as discovering more redwoods around Seattle, the bottom line is that they are all over the place if you keep an eye out. I have to write a blog one of these days just listing the locations of all of the biggest redwoods and seqoias i've seen so far, hundreds of seqouias and at least a couple of hundred redwood trees I've seen that are 100 feet or more. There are around 100 in Lincoln Park alone fitting this description. They blend in very discreetly with other tall trees and usually go unnoticed, and I've only explored a scratch of Seattle so far. It will be really interesting to not only see how many total grow in the city and surrounding area, but how many are 100 feet or more. It will be incredible if mankind is still around and Seattle is still around in another 100 years as these trees will dominate in heighth everywhere they grow by then. 

February 15, 2010

As promised, here are some cool links involving the initial and ongoing parks development in the early 1900s, along with a beautiful network of boulevards linking them all up.
Seattle Park History-Olmsted Parks-note links at bottom when you open, showing all olmsted parks in seattle and olmsted boulevards, wow!
A really interesting article about John Olmsted. A very gifted and driven guy, and here is an excerpt-

John Olmsted was both the nephew and stepson of the pioneer landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. His uncle married his mother and adopted him at a young age after his father died.
He graduated from Yale's Sheffield Scientific School and studied architecture in London, according to the National Association for Olmsted Parks.
City leaders had been hoping to lure the founder's namesake, Frederick Olmsted Jr., but he was busy lecturing at Harvard and couldn't make the trip. Some say it was a lucky break for Seattle, since John Olmsted was really the more talented of the two men. A hard worker with a keen mind, he brought the Olmsted firm into the 20th century, organizing its billing and filing systems.  
Pretty self-explanatory and there's an event in July that looks pretty interesting. I'm guessing I can contact this group as a starting point to find out about early park tree history and other trivia.

Info on Seattles Heritage Tree Program, a listing of notable trees based off of their size, example as a specimen, bit of history surrounding it/them, and listing of where they are at, whether in park, commercial space, or residential. If you have a tree you think should be listed here, click the link on their page to submit your own application. I've seen a lot of trees out in the city that are not listed in this program that are equally beautiful, bigger, etc. It is a relatively new program so I'm not saying there are trees in it that don't deserve it, and what a great program.

That's it for this days blog, oh, but lets have a tree of the day pic to close it out. These are some Coastal Redwoods in a little grove in Lincoln Park in West Seattle. There are about 25 trees in this grove and there are a couple that are among the widest/tallest I've seen in Seattle. Ill devote many days blogs to trees I've ran across in Lincoln Park I'm sure. Its my home park as I live a few blocks away and my favorite park in Seattle overall. Hit the beach on the first part of a walk and then walk back through the woods full of old-growth trees everywhere.

Go Look at Some Big Ones at Green Lake and Woodland Park!

When I made this quest a bit more official and also started this blog (see first blog), the plan was to give daily or every-few-day updates, whether the trees were in parks or residential areas and backyards, and regardless of location. I figured there'd be 2-3 little updates of gems found and I could just list them all each day.  Problem is that there are so many different kinds of big trees everywhere in this town that are prime examples of their species. I could take a 10 minute drive and see a hundred examples.  So I'm starting in the center of Seattle here for my first upates, at/in around Green Lake and Woodland Park. There will be a lot more residential updates later so if you're going to a park for some tree-viewing, you could also hit the residential spots near the park or area you're in.

Also, there's really no reason for this blog if I thought this was anything new or groundbreaking that hasn't been done. you can just google terms like 'biggest trees in seattle' or 'seattle heritage program- tree list' and have all kinds of info without ever looking at this blog. This is more of a visual display and description of all of this info that's already there (albeit a bit blandly I feel:), and hopefully some new findings I'd like to make it more fun than the info I've found online for the area already and delve into tree minutiae and its history here. I also disagree with some of the tallest tree claims for certain species, compared to viewing them and then seeing others, but there's more time for that and a need for the tools to measure from the ground. In my next blog I'll give many links to some of these resources so you have a reference point if you find interest in doing the same sort of thing.

As I get going on this more, I want to research and learn the history of when these trees were planted in these parks, what kind of challenges they faced, and how much of what was planted survived, etc.  Ill also share some info on the histories of the various major parks in Seattle. Anybody who has been around this country knows that Seattle has perhaps the finest assortment of city parks anywhere, and much of that is due to the vision and design of John Olmsted, in the early 1900's when Seattle was really building itself into a spot on the map.

Ok, enough blathering. These Sequoia and Redwood shots are from green lake and woodland park. Sequoias are such beautiful trees. They definitely stand out. Note the size of trunk base and their height above the road lanes, and the cars perspective to the trees.  Its hard to really notice them when you're the car driving along, there are just so many large trees like this everywhere in Seattle that go unnoticed by most.

I love it! Redwoods are the best at disguising themselves. The coastal redwoods growing in Seattle are all for the most part less than 100 years old, essentially toddlers, so the tallest claimed Coastal Redwood in Seattle is only 141 feet (taller ones I think-I know I've seen already, but I digress), a very tall tree but not for a mature redwood.  They'll blend right in with some Douglas Firs or really tall cedars and go unnoticed, but if you look closely, you'll sometimes see the top of one poking out of the middle of a canopy of something else, with their fuzzy-looking-from-afar, and generally dense tops. They are also loners for the most part in Seattle as they're not naturally occurring here, and likely standing as the only of their type amidst other tall trees,or in little groves of from 6-25 trees. A couple of the biggest groves of Coastal Redwoods in Seattle are within 100 yards of major boulevards in Seattle and go unnoticed unless you delve in off the beaten path just seconds. It will be interesting to see how the Sequoias and Redwoods planted here grow this far north. I'd guess it will be a lot easier to spot these trees over time as they should become the dominant trees in the skylines and at street level. Most of the time the Sequoias already are.

February 04, 2010

Seattle's Biggest Trees

Hey Everyone,

I've always loved trees and spend a lot of time outdoors. I've recently become interested in Redwood trees and as a result of a little reading and research and thinking, I now find trees of all types occupying probably way too much mind space! As I learn more about trees and their role on this planet, what affects them and what they affect, I'm naturally wanting to see the biggest or most beautiful examples of each species.

When I read about Redwoods I learned of their history on the planet and where they're at now. These are old trees and were around 65 million years ago on many areas in the Northern Hemisphere when the K-T meteor impact struck the Yuccatan Peninsula. The dinosaurs likely perished due to this impact and so did many of the worlds other plant species. The Redwoods merely shrugged their shoulders and then proceeded to reign supreme as the dominant tree in the Northern Hemisphere until an ice age 25 million years ago triggered their retreat into what are now Coastal Mountain ranges in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

When you look at a Redwood tree, you are looking at an ancient, ancient thing, and it is one of the only living things we can so clearly see that existed so long ago and in the same form. The way these trees, grow, reproduce, and repair themselves is fascinating and the worlds that exist in their crowns/canopies, on their bark and branches, and the life on them and around the forest that they impact is astounding! Understanding this is what made me start really being interested in all trees and their role, their different structures, etc. and yeah, as a result here I am starting up my first blog.

Just for the sake of knowing that they exist and to quietly enjoy their beauty now and then, I'm going to start a little project finding where all of the biggest trees are in Seattle. I encourage anyone else who shares an interest in trees to participate with me on my blog and start sharing information.

Originally, I discovered that although Redwoods are not native to Seattle now, they do grow here when transplanted in the right spot and conditions. This project was originally going to be me finding out where all of the Redwoods growing in parks in Seattle or residential areas existed, and then branching out to other areas in WA. It still is, but now with all of the big tree types.

I'm one of the economic statistics at the moment and am pretty much realizing I need to reinvent myself. I'm thinking I might want to work with trees which I could always do as a hobby and plan to, but also wondering how long in general it takes to be a trained/certified/real-world-experienced arborist for their bread and butter, and I know that the answer can obviously be completely different based on variables and situations. I'd love to chat with any arborists who have a little time. Maybe we could meet for coffee, or maybe there's a tree you want me to show you or vice versa, and I can ask you a few questions and get some input from you after we know a bit more. I'm starting to research this myself now, but nothing like a face-to-face conversation or even getting a chance to see what you do. What are your challenges as well as the highs and lows of your profession.

I'll share information about big trees around Seattle, as I find them, interesting facts, including pics, and please feel free to do the same!

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