August 03, 2009

The Fatal Blue Stain

Blue stain from pine beetles in ponderosa pine.
I had to cut down a roughly 20-year-old ponderosa pine by the driveway near the house last week.

It started looking a little sad this spring, and as the weather warmed, its needles turned brown. The beetles had killed it--not the first tree we have lost. But this was the one that we had decorated as a Christmas tree one time when it was smaller -- stringing garlands of popcorn and cranberries that even the Steller's jays would not eat.

The photo shows the characteristic blue stain of the wood and—at the bottom—a cutaway of one of the tunnels the beetles make.

Meanwhile, ips beetles are starting to hit the piñon pines at lower altitudes, just as they have been doing in northern New Mexico. Driving from Penrose to Colorado Springs last week, I noticed that a lot of piñons were brown.

This article predicts possible ecological outcomes of current infestations, which have been heaviest in northern Colorado, as the map here shows.

A photo taken from our front porch in the 1970s that I found in the crawl space showed that the pine forest around the house was mostly oak brush back then, with a few little pines. Maybe oak brush is the constant.


Tam said...

The forest around my old place in Knoxville was full of pine deadfalls; it had been hit pretty hard.

New stuff was growing in the clearings, though.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Yes, nothing's constant in the forest, although with our human scale of time, it's hard to perceive that some times.

Holly Heyser said...

I hate losing trees.

We have a horrible tree in our back yard - a silver maple, probably nearly 50 years old. It has shallow roots that destroy the garden, and branches fall off all the time. But it's the only substantial tree we have, and I'd hate to see it go...

Camera Trap Codger said...

A shame. I've never seen our pines riddled by beetles like teak in SE Asia. I wanted a chunk of the stuff to show off. It would make a highly original coffee table if you covered it with glass. It was beautiful.

Beverly said...

I wonder if the fact that we generally don't let our forests burn like they should, that contributes to dense growth which probably stresses the trees and attracts beetles to the degree that they do?

I'm a bit south and west of Chas, I think, and our trees aren't yet suffering like those up north of him...but I sure am noticing a lot of mistletoe; yet another stresser.