Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

As the wind blows, so the tree grows

Clinging to the hillside





My brother lives in southern Kansas, west of Wichita, and every time I drive out to see him, I notice the slant of the trees. Because of the prevailing winds from the southwest (particularly during the growing season,) most of the trees lean to the northeast.

The tree in the photo above grows at the crest of a big hill at the extreme northern edge of the "Gyp Hills" (Gypsum Hills, also called the Red Hills.) At the foot of this hill just to the north, the the flat Chikaskia River valley begins.

Over the years that the tree has grown on the hilltop, the strong southwest wind has laid it over sideways, forcing it to grow to the northeast in a completely unnatural position.

I don't know how old this tree is, but I do know it's not growing very fast. During the eighteen years or so that I've been going out there, it hasn't changed much. It didn't look much bigger the last time I saw it than it did the first time. Perhaps it will die from old age before it becomes heavy enough to uproot itself.

When the tree's leaves are heavy with rain or when its branches are caked with snow and ice, the extra weight is surely a great strain on the roots of the tree.

I have to wonder why the tree seed ever took root on this windswept hilltop. It's possible that it found a little wet spot there. Some of the hills on my brother's ranch are "springy" -- that is, during wet years, trickles of water ooze out of them.

Having observed this tree for a while, I was amused at a suggestion I found recently in the Third Biennial Report of the Kansas Horticultural Society (published in 1896.) The author was discussing how to plant orchards in northwest Kansas. "Lean the trees slightly to the southwest," he advised.

2 comments -- please add yours:

Carolyn Hietala said...

Very impressive photo ;0) Man-made and nature-made side by side.

Genevieve said...

Thanks, Carolyn. That image is a scan of a real photograph -- created with film, not digits.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com