header image

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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
81°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
September 16
1872 - Mitchell adobe home in Soledad Canyon area first used as schoolhouse; genesis of 1879 Sulphur Springs School District [story]
Mitchell adobe


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
Thursday, Sep 16, 2021
Today’s blog is the third and final installment in a series in which I review how the Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control (DACC) has improved its operations over the past 20 years.
Thursday, Sep 2, 2021
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, youth drug abuse is a high-profile public health concern that is on the rise.
Wednesday, Sep 1, 2021
You simply have to drive through our community to appreciate the natural beauty of Santa Clarita
Thursday, Aug 26, 2021
The recent events in Afghanistan and their mental health ramifications for our military community remind us that there are challenges beyond the pandemic.
Tuesday, Aug 17, 2021
I am still haunted by a case I had in 1986 when I was a newly minted animal cruelty investigator in Houston, Texas. I had received a complaint from a resident about her neighbor, who had dozens of animals inside her home that were ill and often dying.
Tuesday, Aug 3, 2021
As you drive around Santa Clarita, do you ever wonder what work is being done at your neighborhood park? Or when the new Sheriff’s Station will be complete? Maybe you want to go ice skating at The Cube or find out what issues are going before the City Council. There are several ways you can discover what’s going on in your city.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Midway through the 2021 season, the Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals girls’ volleyball team finds itself ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division 8.
CIF-SS Ranks Santa Clarita Christian Girls Volleyball No. 1
If the teams are still having trouble figuring out their schemes, right now would be a very good time to turn it around: Foothill League competition starts next week.
SCV High School Football Week Five Preview
Today’s blog is the third and final installment in a series in which I review how the Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control (DACC) has improved its operations over the past 20 years.
Marcia Mayeda Reflects on 20 Years at Animal Care & Control | Third in a Series
Well more than 100 people gathered at the Elks Lodge on Sierra Highway Saturday to enjoy time with friends and family — and raise funds for local charities — during the Elks’ Car & Bike Show.
Elks’ Car & Bike Show Raises Funds for Area Charities
1872 - Mitchell adobe home in Soledad Canyon area first used as schoolhouse; genesis of 1879 Sulphur Springs School District [story]
Mitchell adobe
Students across L.A. County may soon have access to more mental health services with the expansion of the Community School Initiative. 
Student Mental Health Services Expansion To Be Explored County Wide
Supervisor Kathryn Barger has read a motion to accept a portion of Sloan Canyon Road near Castaic High School into the county system of highways in an effort to ensure roadway safety and prevent future crashes. 
Supervisor Barger To Address Sloan Canyon Traffic Safety
Los Angeles County Public Health officials on Tuesday confirmed 37 new deaths and 1,930 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 34,936 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Wednesday COVID-19 Roundup: Public Health Issues New Vaccine Order; 34,936 Total SCV Cases
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station deputies are looking for the scoop after multiple Baskin- Robbins ice cream shops were burglarized overnight Tuesday, including two locations in the Santa Clarita Valley.
2 Suspects Arrested In Connection To Baskin-Robbins Burglaries
The city of Santa Clarita invites non-profit organizations interested in learning more about the 2022 grant cycle of the Community Services and Arts Grants Program to a meeting on Thursday, Sept 23.
City Invites Non-Profits To Informational Meeting On Non-Profit Grant
The city of Santa Clarita is presenting the 2021 Parent Resource Symposium, titled “Social Media: The New Gateway Drug” later this month. 
Upcoming Parent Symposium To Show Dangers Of Social Media
A storm’s a-Bruin in the city of Santa Clarita for the start of the American Collegiate Hockey Association season.
UCLA Hockey To Play At The Cube In Valencia
Angeles National Forest officials announced Wednesday the current forest-wide emergency closure order has been extended till midnight of Sept. 22.
Angeles National Forest Extends Closure Until Sept. 22
The Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services is pleased to announce the launch of a new website that links jobseekers and businesses to free workforce development services available through the County’s network of America’s Job Centers of California.
L.A. County Launches New Website For Jobseekers And Businesses
Gov. Gavin Newsom survived efforts aimed at removing him from office after a majority of Californians voted “no” in Tuesday’s recall election, according to preliminary election results.
Gavin Newsom Defeats Recall Efforts
1970 - SCV voters recall two Hart School Board members who didn't let Canyon students protest the Vietnam War [story]
voting
A majority of ballots counted as of Tuesday evening favored keeping the governor in office as county election officials across the state continued tallying ballots Tuesday night in the election to determine whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Early Returns: California Voters Rejecting Recall of Gov. Newsom
Los Angeles County Public Health officials on Tuesday confirmed 27 new deaths and 1,725 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 34,885 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Tuesday COVID-19 Roundup: Correctional Facilities Continue to See COVID-19 Outbreaks; 34,885 Total SCV Cases
Reports of an aircraft crash landing at Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic prompted a full response from law enforcement and first responders Tuesday, with initial reports indicating the plane’s occupants were not injured.
Aircraft Crash-Lands Near Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic
In an email sent to parents Tuesday morning, Hart High School Principal Jason d’Autremont called for an end to a destructive social media trend that involves students filming themselves “trashing” school bathrooms.
Hart Principal Calls for End to ‘Bathroom Trashing’ Social Media Trend
In partnership with the Community College Consortium for OER, College of the Canyons has received a second grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to expand and extend the Open for Anti-Racism program supporting faculty in California Community Colleges.
COC Receives Grant to Support Anti-Racism Through Open Educational Resources
1924 - SCV Deputy Ed Brown killed in shootout with Gus Le Brun [story]
Deputy Ed Brown
The Santa Clarita Master Chorale is proud to announce its annual benefit event - Cabaret and Cabernet - will be held Saturday, Oct. 16, at 5:00 p.m., in the Bridgeport Clubhouse.
Oct. 16: Santa Clarita Master Chorale’s Annual Benefit Fundraiser
The Los Angeles County Library is kicking off its 42nd Annual Bookmark Contest for grades K – 12, which celebrates reading and creativity. Submissions will be accepted through Saturday, Oct. 30.
Entries Being Accepted for L.A. County Library’s Annual Bookmark Contest
%d bloggers like this: