Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mystery Cone

On one of our beached bird surveys at the Salmon River beach near Cascade Head, we found a tightly closed cone on the ocean beach that we did not immediately recognize. We took it home and put it on our kitchen window ledge where it sat for several months in the sun. It is now opening and dropping seeds everywhere (which I intend to plant). It is 4 to 5 inches long (curved so hard to measure) and does not seem to have sharp spines on the scales.

So what is it? Our guesses are Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata) or Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) or a hybrid of those. Can anyone enlighten me?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce are survivors. I planted several an unremembered number of years ago... maybe five or seven or ten years ago... down in a soggy part of our woodland. I wanted to recreate a temperate rainforest. The Sitkas were planted at the edge of a lowland area rimmed by Himalaya blackberries and miscellaneous bushes and trees. The blackberries soon overcame the tiny seedling trees. The blackberries were too much for me to battle with, so I gave the Sitkas up for lost.

Several years ago, I noticed some lovely tall evergreen trees rising out of the blackberries. Once above the height of the blackberry bushes, they had shot upward.

Impressed, I decided to plant more, thinking these few were the only survivors from the original planting. I tried to keep the berries away for the first few years, but mostly did not succeed.

Again the baby trees were buried in berries. But then, one winter when the leaves were off the bushes, I noticed an orange flag in the berries, attached to a leaning bamboo stake. And poking up was a Sitka Spruce! I chopped away the blackberry bushes to help it out. Once freed, it grew quickly.

Every year, it seems, another long lost spruce finds its way above the berry bushes. You can tell by the leader that it has grown this way and that looking for light.

Today, I was down in the woods photographing wildflowers when I noticed an orange flag way in the middle of the blackberry patch. Could it be?? Yes, near the orange flag was a barely visible spruce tree that had fought its way to daylight. The orange flag, attached to a leaning bamboo stake, is just left of center in the photo below.

In the following photo, the top of the spruce is right of center.

And here it comes!

This one is way too far into the blackberries for me to help. But if it's made it this far, it will make it the rest of the way. And once it is clear, it will soar above those bushes and shade them out as this survivor has done. Look at the leader to see how much it grew in one year!

Over two feet!

Look out blackberry bushes, alders, grand fir and doug firs, here come the Sitkas! Armed with strong, razor-sharp needles, nothing will stand in their way.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cedar Trees

Telling apart the four trees I've planted called "cedars"  but which aren't really, at least none are in the genus "Cedrus", has been difficult for me. I learned what the undersides of their needles look like, but could never remember which was which. So I have come up with a system to trigger my memory.

Western Red Cedar has butterflies on the underside of its needles. They are really quite obvious on a twig in hand. We have Red Admiral butterflies in this part of Oregon, so that is how I remember that butterflies belong on Red Cedar (which is actually Thuja plicata, not even in the same genus as the other trees I call cedars.)

Port Orford Cedar (which is really a false Cypress: Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana and also called Lawson Cypress or Oregon Cedar) has quite obvious white Xs on the underside of its needles.

It is a lacy tree, but when grown in the shade in our woods by Agency Creek, I sometimes confuse it with the Western Red Cedar growing nearby. Western Red Cedar looks nothing like Port Orford Cedar when grown in the open... it turns red in the winter. Below is a Port Orford Cedar in our woods.

It was a challenge to come up with a way to associate X with Port Orford. Finally, I decided that X marks the spot on a map and Port Orford is a spot on the map. Lame, I know. But it helps me remember.

Alaska Yellow Cedar is another false cypress: Chamaecyparis nootkaensis. It looks rather different from the others, plus I have it planted in a different spot, with Sitka Spruce. The underside of its needles are not as obvious as the others. I finally decided they look like bouquets of yellow roses (since the undersides are yellowish on the new growth). So I think of the Yellow Rose of Texas and that reminds me of the Yellow Cedar of Alaska. Hey, it works for me.

Of course, I have no trouble telling which are Alaska Yellow Cedars for another reason: the deer love to rub their antlers on them. They are destroying my trees. The wood smells wonderful and must be a deer attractant. I have put tree protectors around them but the deer manage to rub them anyway.

The one below has been mangled many times but is still fighting its way upward.

My fourth "cedar", Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), has branchlets that twist every which way, but I still confuse it with Western Red Cedar if I don't check the needle undersides.

Incense Cedar has vases that one might use to hold incense sticks.

As for "real" cedars (Cedrus), I have two in our arboretum. Cedrus deodar is a little scrawny thing at the moment, having spent its first few years growing sideways and trying to climb out of the blackberry bushes. Once liberated, it straightened up, but still looks sickly.

My other Cedrus is atlantica. It looks alot like deodara to me, but with shorter needles. And bigger at the moment.

Obiously, the "real" cedars look nothing like the so-called cedars that have flat branchlets. The mystery is how all those non-Cedrus trees came to be called "cedars".

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Two Needle Pines

The two-needled pine I bought as a Japanese Black Pine is, apparently, a Scot's Pine. See my blog entry here:

The tree I bought as a Scot's Pine does not look like the one that I now know is. But they can apparently look quite unlike one another. Is the tree below a Scot's Pine, too? Unfortunately, it has not yet made cones so there are no photos of those. The needles are green in the summer but turn a bit yellow in the winter, quite unlike the other identified Scot's pine that stays beautifully blue-green all year. (Photos taken today, last day of 2013.)

Below is the tree I bought as an Austrian Pine (when it was tiny). Is it? It also has not yet made cones.


The last of my two-needle pines is a Shore Pine. I think. We planted it in the hedge row between what is now the arboretum and our neighbor's stand of young doug firs. It sprawls. And has lots of prickly cones this year.

Since I have expensive garden markers under each of these trees, declaring their common and Latin names, I would like to know if they are labeled correctly or not. Any help appreciated. Comment here or email

The Fink Family Farm Arboretum

I know starting a fourth blog is ridiculous. But I need a place to store my photos and questions and answers about the trees in my arboretum. For those just entering the Fink Family Farm world, I began planting trees on two acres of our farm back in the winter of 1998/99. The purpose at that time was to screen the neighbor's new house from my view. Now this may seem a mite ridiculous considering that their new log home is lovely and  about half a mile from ours. However, I like to look out over our pastures and woods without seeing any sign of civilization except our own. The hills behind (west of) us are owned by logging companies and periodically are clearcut in patches but quickly reforested. Trees grow well in western Oregon. We have good neighbors to the north, south and east who also like privacy. None of their buildings are visible from our property. I don't believe any of them can see anyone else's buildings either. We all like it that way.

The ponderosas today across the fence from one of our llamas.

 I have always loved trees (and Johnny is a forester) and so gradually, after we planted several hundred Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pines, I began buying and planting other trees. Sequoias came next. They love it here and are huge. Well, for their age. But I wanted trees from other places, too, so I came up with the idea of having different regions of the world represented in my little two acre arboretum, with paths wide enough for me to ride my horses through, which I do. The main path is wide enough to drive my surrey through, which I also have done.

One now enters with Japan on the left (south) and Australia beyond that (west). The Middle East/Subcontinent was on the right but it did not seem happy here so has a Deodor Cedar as the sole survivor. China is on the left (south) west of Australia (strange geography in my arboretum). Most of the right (north) side of the arboretum is home to plants that are native to the western U.S.: sequoia, redwood, modoc cypress, sugar pine, yew, hemlock, red cedar and incense cedar, among others.

On the left (south) side of the arboretum are most of the trees I am concerned may be mislabeled. They reside in Eastern North America and Europe, primarily. There is also a Fruit and Nut section, an Orphanage (for trees others did not want and gave to me), and the Rocky Mountains.

Enough introduction, next post will be the Two-Needled Pines. Are they what they are labeled? I am eager to find out.