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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Mostly sunny
Mostly sunny
91°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 21
1952 - 7.5-magnitude Kern County earthquake devastates Tehachapi; damage spread from San Diego to Las Vegas [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.

 

ev3ev2

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.

0 Comments

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...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Monday, Jul 2, 2018
In her July message, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste wishes residents a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July, and recaps a bit of local history.
Sunday, Jul 1, 2018
The Mojave rattlesnake or “Mojave green” is a highly irritable and unpredictable pit viper. By comparison, the Pacific rattlesnake you might be accustomed to is fairly tame.
Friday, Jun 15, 2018
Your rights guarantee that you get the health services the law says you can get, protect you against unethical practices, and ensure the privacy of your personal and medical information. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times, and to be protected from discrimination.
Friday, Jun 15, 2018
California voters just bought the feel-good tax proposition that was stated to raise yet another $4 billion for “clean water” funds. Days later, Brown declared it isn’t enough. There will be another ballot measure in November to raise another $8 billion.
Friday, Jun 8, 2018
Our state leaders are finally working together to address one of the greatest inequities in higher education – funding for California community colleges that serve high need students.
Wednesday, Jun 6, 2018
Not every decision on the table must be made within the next week. When it comes to deciding how to fund community colleges, it would be wise to hit pause and devote more careful consideration to the discussion.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1952 - 7.5-magnitude Kern County earthquake devastates Tehachapi; damage spread from San Diego to Las Vegas [story]
The L.A. County Superior Court on July 17 sided with Los Angeles County and dismissed a portion of Chiquita Canyon LLC's complaint, which challenged 13 conditions of the county's conditional use permit governing how the landfill operates, Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced Friday.
Court: Chiquita Landfill Must Comply with CUP, Pay County $12 Mil.
Four men allegedly stole a van and crashed it at Cinema Drive and Valencia Boulevard late Friday afternoon, breaking gas and water lines and snarling rush-hour traffic in the center of the city.
Suspected Van Thieves Crash, Rupture Gas, Water Lines in Valencia
The Los Angeles County Arts Commission has announced $4,518,000 in two-year grants to 216 nonprofit arts organizations through its Organizational Grant Program, and the Santa Clarita Philharmonic Orchestra and the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival are among the grantees.
Santa Clarita Philharmonic, Shakespeare Festival Win County Arts Grants
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency's board of directors voted in its Tuesday meeting to revise its per-diem payment policy for board members attending industry-related meetings and conferences.
SCV Water Board Trims Own Meeting Attendance Pay
College of the Canyons men's basketball player Robert Moss will continue his playing career at University of Saint Katherine after committing to join the Firebirds program.
COC Hoopster Robert Moss Commits to University of Saint Katherine
When wives earn more than their husbands, a puzzling thing can happen: Husbands say they earn more than they are and wives underreport their income, according to new Census Bureau research.
Census Research: Spouses Report Earnings Differently When Wives Earn More
Responding to a booming economy and a generous state budget, administrators on Thursday approved the first tuition decrease for the University of California system in nearly 20 years.
University of California Cuts Tuition for First Time in 20 Years
The William S. Hart Union High School District and Spirit Holding, developers of Castaic High School, will host a community kick-off event on Friday, Aug. 3, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. celebrating the one-year countdown to the grand opening of the new school, currently under construction.
Aug. 3: ‘Countdown to Castaic High’ Public Celebration
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, July 24, starting at 9:30 a.m.
July 24: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
The Los Angeles County Health Officer has issued a Heat Alert for Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24, as high temperatures have been forecast for the Santa Clarita Valley.
SCV Heat Alert Called for Monday, Tuesday
The Lancaster JetHawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but two late home runs from Stockton's Sandber Pimentel led the Ports to victory in a 5-4 final on Thursday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
Lancaster Can’t Stop Pimentel, Ports
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Department of Justice have made public the government's plan for the court-ordered reunification of children ages 5 years and older who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities.
Feds Detail Plan to Reunite Immigrant Children with Parents
2001 - Then-Assemblyman George Runner introduces legislation to memorialize the historic Ridge Route. Enacted Oct. 4. [story]
During a press conference on Thursday at the Gerdau steel mill in Rancho Cucamonga, Chief Eric Parra announced the destruction of 3,566 weapons confiscated within in Los Angeles County. This event comes typically in July, in compliance with California Penal Code 18005(c), which calls for weapons unable to be sold to the public or returned to their owners, to be destroyed.
More than 3,500 Weapons Destroyed at Annual Destruction Event
The Summer Art Festival, at the Oaks Club of Valencia, invites you to a fun, free artists’ reception on Saturday, Aug. 11, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Aug. 11: Summer Art Festival at Oaks Club
When you think "Advanced Manufacturing," Santa Clarita Valley probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind.
SCV Paves the Way for Advanced Manufacturing
(CN) – Delivering a blow to a Silicon Valley billionaire, the California Supreme Court on Wednesday erased a November ballot measure proposing to divide the Golden State in three.
State Supreme Court Tosses Ballot Measure to Split California in Three
Internationally famous Doña Oxford aka “The Goddess of Soul,” is fronting one of the hottest Blues bands of the 21st century. She has toured all over the world, bringing her amazing keyboard playing and vocals to devoted fans in Europe, Japan, Canada and the United States.
July 20: Valencia Jazz & Blues Series to Feature Doña Oxford
No business is immune from the unthinkable. Workplace violence is an increasingly important topic for organizations of all types.
Aug. 21: Active Shooter Awareness Training at VIA Luncheon
St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish Church is holding their 2nd Annual Summer Night Car Show Friday, Aug. 24 from 6:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Aug. 24: St. Kateri 2nd Annual Summer Night Car Show
The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority on Thursday launched the Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal, dubbed LA-HOP, the new Countywide Web-based portal that channels outreach support to people experiencing homelessness.
County Launches Online Portal to Combat Homelessness
LOS ANGELES - Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced Tuesday the company is now offering $75 rebates for residential customers who purchase eligible Energy Star certified smart thermostats that help residents manage their heating and cooling costs and conserve energy.
SoCal Gas Offering Rebates for Customers with Smart Thermostats
STOCKTON – Brian Serven put together one of his best offensive performances of the season to lead the JetHakwks to a 7-2 to win over the Stockton Ports on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
Serven Leads JetHawks to Victory in Series Opener Against Stockton
The William S. Hart Union High School District’s Governing Board voted unanimously to approve the appointment of Brad Renison to become the new Director of Transportation. Most recently, Mr. Renison has been serving as the Interim Director of Transportation.
Hart District Names Brad Renison New Transportation Director
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today acquired four-time All-Star shortstop Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Rylan Bannon, Yusniel Díaz, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop and Breyvic Valera.
Dodgers Acquire 4-Time All-Star Manny Machado
The William S. Hart Union High School District’s Governing Board voted unanimously to approve the appointment of Dr. Catherine Nicholas to become the new principal of Sequoia School.
Hart District Appoints Dr. Catherine Nicholas as New Sequoia School Principal
Welcome to paradise at a high-energy, live show coming up in Santa Clarita’s Concerts in the Park series, presented by Logix Federal Credit Union, this Saturday, July 21, at 7:00 p.m., in Central Park (27150 Bouquet Canyon Road).
July 21: Concerts in the Park to Feature Green Day Tribute Band
SCV Sheriff's Crime Prevention Unit deputies and station detectives have noted an increase in the thefts of catalytic converters from cars in Santa Clarita Valley. The favored target of thieves has been the Toyota Prius (2005-2009).
Deputies Warn of Rise in Catalytic Converter Thefts from Prius Cars
LOS ANGELES – According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, air quality will be unhealthy Thursday for sensitive individuals in San Gabriel Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley.
Air Quality Advisory Issued for SCV
Would you like to be a volunteer at beautiful Red Rock Canyon State Park? Learn about the volunteer program and the park’s natural and cultural history at our two-day volunteer training, Saturdays, Sept. 1st and 8th from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the Ricardo Visitor Center (new volunteers must attend both days).
Red Rock Canyon State Park to Hold 2-Day Volunteer Training
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announces the scheduled closure of the Tejon Safety Roadside Rest Areas on Interstate 5 (Golden State Freeway) to replace a water main line.
Caltrans Announces Temporary Rest Area Closure on I-5 at Tejon
1924 - Sherman Block, L.A. County's 29th Sheriff (1982-1998), born in Chicago [story]
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies have arrested a Santa Clarita woman who allegedly spray-painted walls on a city park building in Saugus early Tuesday morning, also discovering she was allegedly in possession of forged checks.
Woman Charged with Defacing Park Building, Check Forgery
The Paramount Network has set Aug. 11 as the premiere date of 'I Am Paul Walker,' a new film documentary tracing the life of the late actor, who was killed in a 2013 car crash in Valencia.
Aug. 11: Paul Walker Film Doc to Debut on Paramount Network
Marston's Restaurant in Valencia is helping raise funds for Carousel Ranch, Santa Clarita Valley nonprofit organization that provides equestrian therapy for disabled and special needs children and adults.
July 15-Aug. 15: Marston’s Restaurant Fundraising for Carousel Ranch