Monday, January 07, 2008

Big Trees

I’ve always loved hiking in old growth forests filled with big trees. There’s something about walking beneath the canopy of such a woodland that makes me feel good. The landscapes inside this type of wood are open, the forest floor almost always in shadow, and the variety of trees and plants sometimes astounding. In the past few years I was on a mission of sorts to view the old growth hemlock forests of the South before they all died out from an invasive pest. I had already watched the old growth Fraser fir forests of my southern highlands die completely off from a similar insect infestation. The climax forests of balsam trees in which I’d hiked as a teen became standing snags of bleached tree trunks when I was in the thirties and forties.

In the past five years I watched with great anguish and horror while the old hemlock forests went from healthy, to sickly, to dead. Now, inside most of the parks that I frequent, the hemlock groves are merely horizontal trunks, bark peeling, bereft of needles and life.

There are a few areas remaining where hemlock groves still stand and are as yet free of the infestations that have destroyed their more easterly counterparts. The Cumberland Plateau of middle Tennessee so far seems to be relatively untouched by the hemlock wooly adelgid. We can only hope that some of these amazing stands of Eastern and Carolina hemlock trees can be treated against the insect pest and saved until such time as a clever team of biologists can conceive of a biological way to eliminate the invasive species that has done so much harm to our Southern forests.

If you can find the time, at least go to visit such a grove of trees before they’re gone. At least you will have the memory of them and can tell others of what you once saw. If you feel more strongly about it, write to your senator or congressman or governor and ask that these forests be aided by the application of an insecticide that can halt the spread of the adelgid’s march across the South. And, if you truly wish to help, you can purchase the Bayer Company insecticide Imadacloprid (commonly sold as Merit), and treat hemlock groves on your own, at your own expense. But, as I said, at the very least, go to see these groves before they’re all gone.

Some places where hemlocks still stand in great, old growth splendor are:

Bridgestone-Firestone Wilderness

Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness

Cataloochee Valley, where the hemlocks are extinct, now.
(All of the hemlock groves where I took these photos between 2004/2005 are now dead.)


The DPS Kid said...

Bob I've noticed you enjoy hiking in the vast American wilderness and couldn't help wondering about the many creatures one must encounter in so doing.

Bob the tree photos made me think of perhaps the most evil rodent mankind has ever known. Yes Bob--Sciurus Carolinensis--aka the Eastern Grey Squirrel and they MUST die......all of them. Surely they are bad for the Hemlocks too.

Come see your friend on route 8 if you need advice on termination techniques. The world thanks you. I thank you.

HemlockMan said...

Ah, the Eastern gray! As pernicious a beast as ever placed here by the Great Spirit! A wily critter, and certainly a dangerous beastie.

It's good to know there are real men about protecting us all from a plague of such monsters!