[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 20
1873 - Santa Barbara lawyers Charles Fernald and J.T. Richards purchase Rancho San Francisco for $33,000 (75 cents an acre) in a sheriff's sale [story]

Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Nov 6, 2014

evelynevandersande_mug“Young adult Western literature” is where I read about aspen trees for the first time.

As I grew up in Paris, France, I had never seen an aspen in real life, but I was an avid reader – and those books took me to new territories beyond my own borders. I was entertained by the endless conflicts between cowboys and Indians, but I really enjoyed the descriptions of the majestic sunsets over the vast plains, the smell of the campfire and the pot of beans cooking on that fire, which would be followed by the moon rising, the glowing embers and the coyotes howling in the night. I could smell the fire and the beans, and somehow the “quaking aspens” were often part of the scenery.

How can a tree tremble? This term came back to puzzle me.

I saw my first aspen in the hills above Santa Fe. I had never seen one in person, but I recognized it right away. Yes, it was trembling; the leaves were in a gentle motion while all of the other trees around were still. I came close to hugging this tree – but I have learned to calm myself down, and instead I laid my hand down on the smooth, white trunk. (But perhaps hugging the tree would have been OK in Santa Fe?)

ev1Why do the leaves quake at the slightest wind? The petiole – that is the stem of the leaf – is long, flexible and flat, so the wind easily makes it move.

I just came back from visiting Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon and saw many glorious forests of aspen, shining golden yellow in their fall glory, as bright as a bouquet of marigolds in the sun.

When I found out the aspen became Utah’s state tree on May 13, 2014, I knew I had to write about those gorgeous trees.

As I was taking way too many photos, I noticed something strange about those aspen forests. One group of many trees would be in full foliage while a group just next to it would already have lost its leaves. What was going on? I found the explanation on a marker on Route 12, one beautiful scenic road that goes through some of the most isolated parts of the U.S.

One aspen tree forms a colony through a network of roots that sprout into additional trees. Each colony is a clone of the first tree, propagating through a single root structure.

To make things more complex, aspen are either male or female, so the whole colony is either male or female. Each tree has the same characteristic. So if a clone starts to turn yellow early in the fall, the whole colony will start changing color at the same time – but that might be at a different time from the next colony.

I learned there is a colony of aspen in Utah affectionately called Pando. It is the heaviest living organism on earth, weighing an estimated 6 million kilograms, and also the oldest at about 80,000 years old.

Aspen have seeds in cottony fluff (they are from the poplar family) but they rarely reproduce through those seeds. Large stands of either male or female aspen make pollination difficult, so reproduction is mostly made by the roots.

ev5-aspenThat gives them another advantage in case of fire. The trees will burn in a forest fire, but the roots are not touched, and new sprouts come out soon. Fire is helpful: Aspen do not grow well in the shade, but young saplings will grow quickly in a burnt landscape.

They have had an increased popularity with the forestry services because they grow fast and they regenerate from sprouts, so they do not need to be replanted after harvesting.

Aspen wood is white and soft, but it does not burn well, so it is used to make matches and paper. It is a light wood, so it is used for furniture, boxes and crates. Shredded aspen is also used for packing and stuffing. It is used for animal bedding because it does not cause respiratory ailments like pine chips or juniper can.

Aspens were used by the pioneers to build log cabins and dugouts.

I was interested to read that the bark contains a substance used by the Native Americans and the pioneers as a substitute for quinine.

Also, it seems the leaves can be a source of food for caterpillars, moths and butterflies. (Lepidoptera feed on poplars.)

The elk also eat the bark and make marks on the trunk by pulling the bark with their front teeth. Aspens are usually found at higher elevations of 5,000 to 12,000 feet. They are deciduous and need a cold winter to survive.

ev4In 1996, people started to notice that aspen forests were dying. In 2004, many scientists started to look for the reasons. They concluded that many animals were eating the young sprouts – cattle, deer and elk. The young conifers were left alone by these animals (not tasty, I guess), and the conifers were taking over the space. On the other hand, the pine beetles were killing the conifers, so that gave the aspens a chance to grow later.

One of the big problems was the many years of fire suppression, as wildfire helps the growth of aspen groves. This policy is changing, so that might also give a new chance for aspens to recover.

We will see what the future brings, but this tree is one of the most beautiful trees, and seeing them in their fall glory of gold is always a moment to savor.

Fall is truly a beautiful season. The cool weather felt good. It might be time to build a fire and cook those beans while watching the sunset.

Can anybody bring a guitar?


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 28 years. She lives in Newhall.



Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
It makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.
Thursday, Oct 4, 2018
Local entrepreneurs, industry leaders and business owners are looking for employees who can communicate clearly, whether writing or speaking; effectively collaborate on teams; and quickly make decisions that benefit both the company and its customers.
Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018
Canyon Country is known as a major residential area in our City, as well as a popular commercial and retail spot.
Monday, Oct 1, 2018
In her message for October 2018, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste invites the community to the annual State of the City Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018
Not being able to record and document what Knight and Hill stated during the debate makes it difficult for our community to hold both of them accountable to what they say.
Friday, Sep 14, 2018
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage have different benefits and costs that you should consider based on your personal needs. Medicare open enrollment season runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and it’s a good idea to know how the two types of Medicare work before you select one.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1873 - Santa Barbara lawyers Charles Fernald and J.T. Richards purchase Rancho San Francisco for $33,000 (75 cents an acre) in a sheriff's sale [story]
The annual "Fun in the Sun" Chili Cook-Off staged by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to benefit the Special Olympics is set for Saturday, Oct. 20 from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Jack Bones Equestrian Center in Castaic.
Oct. 20: LASD ‘Fun in the Sun’ Chili Cook-Off to Benefit Special Olympics
College of the Canyons administrators alerted students and faculty Friday morning to a report of an unwanted sexual encounter Thursday in a COC restroom.
Unwanted Sexual Encounter Reported at COC
Brian O’Connor has been promoted to vice president brand and corporate communication at Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises.
Princess Cruises Ups O’Connor to VP Brand, Corporate Communications
Santa Clarita City Councilmembers on Tuesday night will discuss how to respond to county planners' request that developers consider a homeless shelter in Phase II of the proposed Tesoro del Valle housing project just north of city limits.
Oct. 23: City to Weigh Response to County Idea for Tesoro Homeless Shelter
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold its next meetings at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Oct. 23: Santa Clarita City Council Regular, Special Meetings
The National Weather Service issued an urgent red flag warning at 3 p.m. Friday that will remain in effect in the Santa Clarita Valley until 10 p.m. due to gusty Santa Ana wind and low humidity.
Red Flag Warning Flies Till 10 Friday Night
The registration deadline to vote in the Nov. 6 General Election is Monday, Oct. 22, at 11:59 p.m.
Oct 22: Last Day to Register to Vote in Nov. 6 Election
In less than three weeks, California’s 19 million voters will decide a slate of midterm ballot measures aimed at easing the state’s affordable housing crisis, but not all initiatives may bring residents the relief they seek.
State Voters Eye Ballot Measures for Solutions to Housing Crisis
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Oct. 23, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Oct. 23: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
Lane closures on Soledad Canyon Road due to film-related activity near the Saugus Speedway will begin at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and end at approximately 4 a.m. Wednesday, according to an alert from the city of Santa Clarita.
Lane Closures on Soledad for Filming Set for Tuesday Night
Night work on the city of Santa Clarita's Sierra Highway pedestrian bridge project will take place at the construction site on Sierra Highway north of Golden Valley Road on Tuesday, Oct. 23, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Oct. 23: Night Work on New Sierra Highway Pedestrian Bridge
East LA College will visit Cougar Stadium Saturday night, and all SCV youth football and cheer teams — Santa Clarita Cowboys, Grizzlies, Spartans, Vikings, Warriors, Wildcats and teams from other parks and recreation programs — are invited to attend the game free of charge when wearing a school jersey or uniform.
COC Invites SCV Youth Football, Cheer Programs to Saturday’s Game
To increase awareness about school bus safety among motorists, parents, teachers and students, the California Highway Patrol will observe National School Bus Safety Week Oct. 22-26.
Oct. 22-26: CHP Rides with School Bus Safety Week
Oct. 21-27 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department wants to remind parents and guardians the importance of talking to their teen drivers about new responsibilities and rules that come with operating a vehicle.
Oct. 21-27: LASD Rolls with National Teen Driver Safety Week
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies arrested a Long Beach man on multiple charges for weapons and drugs earlier this week, according to officials.
SCV Deputies Arrest Long Beach Man in Gorman on Multiple Charges
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]
The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation presents its latest “Recreation After Dark” event, “Goin’ Country at Hart.”
Oct. 19: Goin’ Country at Hart to Feature Moldy Marvin, Highway 138
ARCADIA, Calif. — On Wednesday, Jerry Perez officially reported to the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, where he will serve as the new Forest Supervisor, replacing Jeff Vail, who accepted the position of deputy director for Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources in the Forest Service’s Washington Office.
New Angeles National Forest Supervisor Excited About New Position
Le Chene French Cuisine has announced that they will be hosting two special events coming to you in November.
Le Chene Invites Residents to November Celebrations
The Valencia High School Marching Band and Color Guard held their first major fundraising event for their band season.
Valencia High School Marching Band Appreciates Support from Community
The city of Santa Clarita will present three music-related sessions at the 2018 Arts Symposium at The Centre on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Oct. 20: Art Symposium to Stage 3 Music Sessions
It makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.
How to Shop for Medicare Plans | Commentary by Greg Dill
StarKist Co. has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of packaged seafood sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
StarKist Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing
The First Presbyterian Church of Newhall will be performing “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress.”
Newhall Church to Present ‘The Green Velvet Christmas Dress’
Decorated with fun embellishments such as puffy paint, tulle fabric, feathers and even bubble wrap, artist Georgette Arison’s mixed-media art in “Dressing Up is Fun,” the newest art exhibit at the Newhall Community Center, uses unconventional methods to showcase costume design.
‘Dressing Up is Fun’ Exhibit Now Showcasing at Newhall Community Center
Celebrating its 5th anniversary this year, the Santa Clarita Oktoberfest is a Southern California twist on the original Oktoberfest held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
Oct. 19, 20: Santa Clarita Oktoberfest
College of the Canyons has been ranked No. 29 by the Hispanic Outlook on Education Magazine’s Top 100 colleges and universities list for graduating Hispanic students.
Hispanic Outlook Ranks COC No. 29 on Top 100 List
Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, a United States Air Force Thunderbirds pilot and a graduate of Saugus High School who died on April 4 during a routine aerial training flight in the Nevada Test and Training Range, lost consciousness before the fatal crash, according to a report released by the Air Force.
Report: Santa Clarita Thunderbirds Pilot Lost Consciousness Before Crash
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to close 62 campground pit toilets, considered to be large capacity cesspools, at seven national forests across California.
Forest Service Forced to Close Cesspools in State’s National Forests
The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations (LACCHR) released its annual account Wednesday of hate crimes reported throughout Los Angeles County in 2017.
LA County Hate Crimes Continue to Rise
Sheriff Jim McDonnell has named Sergio Perez, a Los Angeles native, as his Constitutional Policing Advisor to assist the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in sustaining reform and advancing justice for the diverse communities we serve.
LASD Names New Constitutional Policing Adviser
Every year, department members who perform acts of great courage and heroism, who go above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of others while placing their own lives at risk, are honored and recognized at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Medal of Valor Awards Ceremony.
LASD Department Members, Private Citizens Recognized at Award Ceremony
1876 - Southern Pacific begins subdividing town of Newhall (original location at Bouquet Junction) [story]
The Probation Reform and Implementation Team met Wednesday to discuss a new mission and vision for the nation’s largest Probation Department, and consider an organizational structure that supports separate adult and juvenile probation operations in Los Angeles County.
County Officials Weigh Juvenile, Adult Probation Reform