Montana’s Biggest Trees Registry

The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation keeps records on the largest trees in the state. These trees have been cataloged as the largest representatives of their particular species discovered so far. From looking at past registries, it appears that most of these record trees are located in the northwestern part of the state.

However, many species of Montana trees have not yet been nominated and there is a special category for urban trees. There is no funding to support this program; its success is mostly dependent on the volunteer efforts.

Forms and technical directions on how to measure a tree for nomination can be found on-line http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/forestry/forestry-assistance/montana-big-trees-program

Biggest trees 3 2017

http://billingsgazette.com/ eedition/page-a/ page_64df6c88-bfb5-519c -a021-742ebfb67aeb.html

 

 

Maybe like me, this will perk your interest in becoming a “Big Tree Hunter”. Is there a “specimen big tree” in your yard or neighborhood? Or, will one of us find a tree to nominate in one of our outdoor adventures across the state?

(By the way, if you really get into this, there is also a national big tree registry. http:// http://www.americanforests.org/bigtree )

An excellent reference book on trees: Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.

Submitted by Elaine Allard

Mike Garvey Presentation on Historic and Unique Trees that can be Found in in Our Community

Mike Garvey has an intense interest in trees and has identified, photographed and studied over 15,000 trees in our area. Mike Garvey stressed the need for large long-living trees. Besides giving great shade, the trees make for a healthy environment – taking in CO2 and giving off oxygen. Their large root systems capture a large amount of run-off and prevent erosion. Large trees also increase property values. When you consider all the benefits of a large tree and put a price tag on its value, the tree can be worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

The majority of trees originally planted in our community represent a first generation of species that are nearing the end of their safe and useful life expectancy. Mike Garvey has documented and taken pictures of heritage trees in our downtown area that have been here since on or before 1900. For instance, the vase-shaped American elms currently growing on the Yellowstone courthouse lawn were planted in 1902. Also, Mike has done the documentation to get a catalpa, a ginkgo and a bristle cone pine tree that are growing in the Billings area listed in Montana’s Biggest Trees Registry.

Over the past 125 years countless heritage trees of Billings have died or are dying from old age, harsh climate conditions, disease and human-caused neglect. Garvey suggested that we should be getting clones from these long-lived and majestic trees. His thinking is that these trees have been able to survive because they have the genetics that match the environment.

Mike Garvey has noticed that landscapers and homeowners in the Billings area commonly replace the older dying trees with a limited variety of quick-growing, short-living, disease and insect prone trees with quaking aspen and green ash being some of the most overused. However, in his study and search to identify trees in our area, he has come across rarely seen species growing quite successfully. He showed beautiful photos he had taken around Billings of black locust, catalpa, white spruce, American Larch, Northern red oak, bur oak, redbud, Ginkgo, tulip tree, Kentucky coffee tree, American yellowwood, golden chain, Pierson ironwood, shellbark hickory, bristle cone pine, common pear, Ohio buckeye, purple robe locust, yellowhorn, hackberry, and autumn blaze maple.

Mike Garvey believes we should be optimistic and not let the weird storms that have hit our area in the last couple of years prevent us from planting trees. Also, he thinks we should be a bit adventurous and plant a larger variety of trees some of which are slow-growing but have fewer diseases and longer lifespan.

Mike Garvey’s study of trees has led him to pay close attention to the soil and how important organic matter, microbial activity and drainage are for the tree’s health. When planting a tree, he suggested leaving some of the clumps of dirt intact to help keep the microbial make-up of the soil. Overwatering interferes with the trees ability to respire and according to Garvey is the major cause of death for newly planted trees. Also he feels the need to have plenty of room for the roots to grow. He showed pictures that were taken in downtown Billings of newly planted trees on tiny boulevards giving the roots nowhere to go. (He called these tree coffins.) Mike’s talk was very informative and we came away with a wealth of information.

Submitted by Elaine Allard

NOTHING IS WASTED

People who spend a lot of time in touch with and learning about the natural world (like gardeners) soon become aware that nothing in a natural ecosystem is ever unused waste. What looks like waste—for example, animal droppings or dead leaves—becomes food for other organisms. Nutrients cycle round and round forever. Only in a man-made system do things become linear. There is waste—materials that do not feed other beings but go straight into a landfill or on the side of a road or into the rivers and oceans. And man is also the creator of plastic that, so far, no organisms can digest, so it seems that it will last forever, undigested and intact.

The following is an eloquent essay on this phenomenon printed in “Resurgence and Ecologist” magazine in the September/October 2016 issue. We would do well to choose to live under the laws of Earth and revise our economic laws to coincide with Earth’s laws. No better place to begin than in our gardens.

JUST SO MUCH, AND NO MORE
By Donella Meadows

The first commandment of economics is Grow. Grow forever. Companies must get bigger. National economies need to swell by a certain percentage each year. People should want more, make more, earn more, spend more—ever more.

The first commandment of the Earth is Enough. Just so much, and no more. Just so much soil. Just so much water. Just so much sunshine. Everything born of the Earth grows to its appropriate size and then stops. The planet does not get bigger; it gets better. Its creatures learn, mature, diversify, evolve, create amazing beauty and novelty and complexity, but live within absolute limits.

Economics says: Compete. Only by pitting yourself against a worthy opponent will you perform efficiently. The reward for successful competition will be growth.

The Earth says: Compete, yes, but keep your competition in bounds. Don’t annihilate. Take only what you need. Leave your competitor enough to live. Wherever possible, don’t compete: cooperate. Pollinate each other, create shelter for each other, build firm structures that lift smaller species up to the light. Pass around the nutrients, share the territory. Some kinds of excellence rise out of competition; other kinds rise out of cooperation. You’re not in a war: you’re in a community.

Economics says: Use it up fast. Don’t bother with repair; the faster you use it up, the sooner you’ll buy another. That makes the gross national product go round. Throw things out when you get tired of them. Shave the forests every 30 years. Get the oil out of the ground and burn it now. Make jobs so people can earn money, so they can buy more stuff and throw it out.

The Earth says: What’s the hurry? Take your time building soils, forests, coral reefs, mountains. Take centuries or millennia. When any part wears out, don’t discard it: turn it into food for something else.

Economics says: Worry, struggle, be dissatisfied. The permanent condition of humankind is scarcity. The only way out of scarcity is to accumulate and hoard, though that means, regrettably, that others will have less.

The Earth says: Rejoice! You have been born into a world of self-maintaining abundance and incredible beauty. Feel it, taste it, be amazed by it. If you stop your struggle and lift your eyes long enough to see Earth’s wonders, to play and dance with the glories around you, you will discover what you really need. It isn’t that much. There is enough.

We don’t get to choose which laws—those of the economy or those of the Earth—will ultimately prevail. We can choose which ones we will personally live under—and whether to make our economic laws consistent with planetary ones, or to find out what happens if we don’t.

 

Submitted by Ann Guthals

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy

Bringing Nature Home is a book for anyone who has a yard. For years home-owners have been encouraged to buy alien imported plants for many reasons: beautiful flowers, deer-resistance, hardiness, attraction for birds or bees, and even the allure of growing new and different plants. Native plants are not easy to find and we are not often urged to choose them for our landscaping. Unfortunately the result of choosing from the 5000 species of alien plants that have been introduced into the U.S. is to endanger the biodiversity of all our plants and animals.

Why is biodiversity important in suburbia? Don’t we have a lot of wild areas? The author explains that over 95% of land in the contiguous 48 states is modified or disturbed in some way by humans, leaving only 3 to 4% of wild land, not enough to sustain our wildlife. In addition, the remaining wild areas are not contiguous, existing in unconnected fragments. And about 54% of the non-wild areas is in cities and suburbs—so providing native plants in our yards becomes highly significant. Your one yard, no matter its size, DOES make a difference. If you plant natives and your neighbors do as well, then a corridor begins to be formed for wild animals.

The author very clearly explains why non-native plants are a threat to the diversity of living species. Research shows that native insects generally cannot eat alien plants and they must go elsewhere or even disappear without the plants they need, because many are specialists and can only eat one or two plants. These same insects are the link between plants and predators such as other insects, birds, reptiles, and amphibians who cannot gain their energy directly from plants. So the planting of aliens has reduced the biomass and diversity of insects and thus reduced the diversity of all of our wildlife.

Non-natives create other major problems. They can become runaway invaders such as kudzu and spotted knapweed and they can bring in alien insects and diseases that can wipe out native species of plants. There is an excellent description in the book of American chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, and a more recent threat called sudden oak death disease.

If after reading this clearly written and accessible book urging the planting of native species in our yards you become convinced that this is an important thing to do, how would you go about it? While it is not a detailed how-to book, Mr. Tallamy does give important guidelines in a chapter called Making It Happen and he further breaks down resistance to change in the chapter called Answers to Tough Questions (such as “do I have to sacrifice beauty if I choose to plant natives”, “why is an alien plant full of birds or bees a problem”, and “won‘t aliens become natives over time?”).

My one wish for this book is that there would have been more information about native plants for landscaping in the western U.S., but the book is important to read to understand the problem of growing alien plants and there are other resources to help if you choose to make your Billings yard fundamentally native (such as Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

From the Afterword: To me the choice is clear. The costs of increasing the percentage and biomass of natives in our suburban landscapes are small, and the benefits are immense. Increasing the percentage of natives in suburbia is a grassroots solution to the extinction crisis. To succeed, we do not need to invoke governmental action; we do not need to purchase large tracts of pristine habitat that no longer exist; we do not need to limit ourselves to sending money to national and international conservation organizations and hoping it will be used productively. Our success is up to each one of us individually. We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby. As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered—and the ecological stakes have never been so high.

Book Review by: Ann Guthals

It’s Fall, Y’All! The season for everyone’s favorite … pumpkins!

Native to North America, pumpkins are a type of winter squash, genus Cucurbita, that are a category all their own, species pepo or maxima (this species is for the really big pumpkins). At this time of year, the market is filled with many different types of pumpkins besides the basic orange globe. If you see an unusual one at your market, try it for a different look in your fall decorations or as a completely different culinary taste treat.

By the way, did you know pumpkins are technically a fruit, not a vegetable?

Click here – Enjoy your exploration!

Submitted by Donna Canino

MSU Extension Heritage Orchard Project

MSU Extension is looking for living historic orchards in the state.  To be considered a “backyard heritage orchard,” there must be at least six living trees that are 50 years or older. To be considered a “farmstead heritage orchard,” there must be at least 10 living trees that are 50 years or older.   Qualified orchards will be placed on an interactive map administered through MSU Extension. A website will provide viewers with information about the history of each orchard and a list of identifiable varieties. MSU Extension will work closely with orchard landowners to explore opportunities for tourism, preservation and/or propagation. http://www.mtorchards.org/

More information online at http://www.mtorchards.org/