For a tree too big to wrap your arms around, the California coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, is surprisingly elusive. Their bases might be elephantine, but the upper reaches, they’re lofty, inscrutable. It’s this zone that I’m preparing to enter, a fog-shrouded crown on the northern California coast. A guide cinches me into a harness, and before I know it, I’m 140 feet up, then 150, 160. I stare at the tree’s dark, gnarled bark to quell the vertigo rising in my temples.
By the time I’m about 20 stories off the ground, the dot-sized people staring up at me are gone, replaced by intertwined branches and needles that close around me like a net. Clumps of sage-colored moss dangle and an inexplicable calm descends. Somewhere, my mind is scrambling like a squirrel, aware that I’m dangling 200 feet off the ground, but the tree’s unrelenting solidity—it’s been here since before the Magna Carta, after all—is having an effect. There’s a stillness up here that passes understanding.
I should have seen this coming. It’s just the way David Milarch described it. Milarch’s singular goal in life is to bring these primeval forests back from the brink, and he knows just how to win people to his cause. The best baptism is the experience. I see it in the faces of others after they return from a crown visit: blooming cheeks, starry eyes, deep sighs. They’ve gotten big tree religion.
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Cities usually come at the price of green space. Since prehistoric times, humans have busily cleared forests to make way for settlements. But increasingly, greenery has been edging its way back into modern urban landscapes, and for good reason. Vegetation helps cities become better habitats for wildlife and for people, and it helps to make city air safer.
Trees have a remarkable range of traits that can help reduce urban air pollution, and cities around the world are looking to harness them. In January 2019, the mayor of London announced that 7,000 trees would be planted before the end of the following year. Meanwhile, China’s Hebei Province, home to Beijing, has been working on a “green necklace” of plants that could help reduce pollution from factories that surround the capital. And Paris is planning an urban forest that will encompass its most iconic landmarks in an effort to adapt to climate change, and also improve the city’s air quality.
While trees are generally effective at reducing air pollution, it isn’t as simple as the more trees you have in an urban space, the better the air will be. Some trees are markedly more effective at filtering pollutants from the air than others. To make the most difference in air quality in a street or city, it has to be the right tree for the job.
And, of course, trees are only a way to filter pollution; better is to reduce emissions of pollutants in the first place, notes David Nowak, a senior scientist at the US Forest Service who has been studying plants’ contribution to air quality for 30 years. “But trees can be of great help,” he says.
Trees can improve air quality in direct and indirect ways. Indirectly, they can help by shading surfaces and reducing temperatures. If buildings are shaded by trees, it reduces the need for conventional air conditioning, and the emissions of greenhouse gases that come with it. Plus, lower temperatures decrease risk of harmful pollutants like ground level ozone that commonly spike on hot days in urban areas.
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Years ago, my family hiked into the Navajo Nation forest with a medicine man in search of a tree that could act as an intermediary to the Creator. It had to be sturdy enough to match our prayers for positive growth and young enough to have time to mature so its protection could last a lifetime. The medicine man selected a young Douglas fir that had no blemishes, bends, or twists. It was perfect.
We offered the little fir gifts that signified our gratitude. My husband and son placed turquoise while my daughter and I laid a white shell near its trunk. We sprinkled corn pollen on its needles to honor our lives as part of nature.
When I was 21, my birth mother died of cancer. Seeking grounding, I turned to the natural world, and soon, to the indigenous people most connected to it. In this way, I met Ursula Knoki-Wilson of the Táchii’nii, who adopted me as the daughter she never had and hired the medicine man for my Blessingway Ceremony. Later, I was adopted by Elaine Abraham’s family of the Naa Tláa of Yéil Naa, K’inéix Kwáan from the Tsisk’w Hit of Yakutat, Alaska, who named me Guna Kadeit Seedi Shaawat. My relatives taught me that everything has a spirit and needs to be respected.
Trees are people to be negotiated with and lived with on shared terms. Their lessons are available to anyone who hikes among the forest with an open heart, and listens.
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For the thousands of people around the world who’d once visited and admired the world’s largest treehouse in Crossville, Tennessee, the news came as an awful shock. In October 2019, a blaze consumed the singular construction. But for Horace Burgess, the treehouse’s architect, this is just how things go. He was well acquainted with how it feels to lose your own, self-built treehouse in an angry conflagration. Heck, he’d already burned one down himself.
“It was just evil,” says Burgess of the older treehouse he built and then razed back in the 1980s. There was “no good about it.” The house had ended up serving as Burgess’s hideaway for doing drugs, which he committed to quitting after the deaths of some friends. Trouble was, the house itself had become part of the habit. A voice came to Burgess, saying that he had to burn the house down if he was going to rebuild his life. And it wasn’t just any voice.
People typically think “you’re a little bit crazy when you say that God spoke to you,” Burgess admits, “but really he’s the one that tells us to put our pants on in the morning.” Looking back, Burgess says that burning that first treehouse down—on God’s advice—was “probably the most sane moment in my life.”
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City parks all over the world are wonderful places to enjoy green spaces while still enjoying urban life. However, in Copenhagen, architects and designers are looking for ways to use the city’s unused space in a different way.
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Researchers say the economic costs of a deadly pathogen affecting olive trees in Europe could run to over €20 billion.
They’ve modelled the future worst impacts of the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen which has killed swathes of trees in Italy.
Spread by insects, the bacterium now poses a potential threat to olive plantations in Spain and Greece.
The disease could increase the costs of olive oil for consumers. Xylella is considered to be one of the most dangerous pathogens for plants anywhere in the world. At present there is no cure for the infection.
It can infect cherry, almond and plum trees as well as olives.
It has become closely associated with olives after a strain was discovered in trees in Puglia in Italy in 2013.
The organism is transmitted by sap-sucking insects such as spittlebugs.
The infection limits the tree’s ability to move water and nutrients and over time it withers and dies.
In Italy, the consequences of the spread of the disease have been devastating, with an estimated 60% decline in crop yields since the first discovery in 2013.
“The damage to the olives also causes a depreciation of the value of the land, and to the touristic attractiveness of this region,” said Dr Maria Saponari, from the CNR Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection in Italy.
“It’s had a severe impact on the local economy and jobs connected with agriculture.”
As well as in Italy, the Xylella bacterium has now been found in Spain, France and Portugal.
Tackling it at present involves removing infected trees and trying to clamp down on the movement of plant material and the insects that spread the disease.
But if these measures fail, what will be the financial impact of the infection? Click here to read more…
Joshua trees face the risk of extinction after decades of development, drought and more frequent wildfires due to climate change in their Mojave Desert stronghold, according to California state wildlife authorities who are recommending that the trees be considered for listing as an endangered species.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife on Monday said it based its recommendation on a review of a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, which argues that the western Joshua tree’s spindly desert woodlands are “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future” without protection under the California Endangered Species Act.
The fate of Joshua Tree National Park’s namesake plant is now in the hands of the state Fish and Game commissioners. They are to decide in June whether to accept the department’s recommendation and declare the tree a candidate for listing. If the trees are listed, the law requires state wildlife managers to devise a recovery plan for them, which could limit development on some of Southern California’s sunniest real estate.
A final decision is expected sometime next year. Click here to read more…
If you have ever noticed small holes, made in neat rows on the trunk of a tree, you are probably looking at the damage caused from a yellow bellied sapsucker.
Sapsuckers are a type of woodpecker, but are smaller than the usual woodpeckers. Both birds use their beaks to tap on tree trunks to make holes. Sapsuckers make lots of small holes in horizontal or vertical lines in the trunks of trees. Woodpeckers make larger holes in different spots up and down tree trunks. These holes are referred to as sap wells.
Sapsucker and woodpecker damage is usually found on trees that are stressed from some sort of disease or physical wounds. Both birds seem to really love young live oaks, although I have often seen sapsucker damage on older live oaks.
When a tree experiences stress caused by humans, animals or any other means, sugars from the tree’s sap will concentrate in the area to help repair the problem. Many types of insects and animals, including sapsuckers, detect the sweet tree sap and will be attracted to the area.
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The rosewood tree is one of the most trafficked species on earth. When it’s cut it bleeds a blood-red sap, thus the name “Blood Tree.”
Having exhausted stocks elsewhere, Chinese traders have turned to West Africa. This video report by BBC Africa Eye comes from Senegal where it is illegal to fell or export a Rosewood tree. And yet, they reveal the trees are been logged and smuggled at an alarming rate. From the forests of Casamance, through the port of neighboring Gambia and all the way onto China.
For a year BBC Africa Eye with Umaru Fofana has been investigating the million-dollar trade in trafficked rosewood.
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Salah Abu Ali has three children. But he has another son here, he says, pointing towards the gnarled trunk of the Al Badawi tree. Weathered and ancient, it looks more like an oak than an olive tree, with muscular stalks and a cavernous trunk. Sensing confusion, Ali walks to the tree. He kneels below the branches and gently caresses a small sapling that’s sprouted near the base. He says he found it on the day his last son was born.
In the sleepy Palestinian village of Al Walaja, on the outskirts of Bethlehem, Ali wakes every morning to tend to his family’s orchard. Entering through a neighbor’s yard, he trots down the grove’s narrow paths in a way that belies his age, occasionally reaching down to quickly toss aside trespassing stones; briskly descending verdant terraces, one after another until he comes to the edge of the orchard. It is at this edge where Ali spends most of his day, pumping water from the spring above or tending to the soil. It is where he sometimes sleeps at night, and where he hosts people that have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But many come for the tree, an olive that some believe to be the oldest in the world.
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