Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

But not all was desolation

with 12 comments

Yaupon with Fruit by Burned Pines 4495

Much of what I saw along Bastrop State Park’s Red Trail on February 10th was dead, the remains of the great fire of 2011, but at the same time I saw many signs of life in the burned-out forest. The first photograph shows a fruiting yaupon tree, Ilex vomitoria, an evergreen relative of the possumhaw you’ve more often seen here.

In the second picture you can see that although some 90% of all the loblolly pine trees, Pinus taeda*, in the Lost Pines Forest were destroyed in 2011, new ones have kept springing up and providing patches of vibrant green amid the shades of brown and gray.

Pine Sapling Among Dead Trees 4576

Below is a closer look at that new growth. How about those long needles?

Loblolly Pine Sapling Detail 4585

———

* I’ve just learned that taeda was the Latin word for ‘a pitch-pine tree.’ By extension it could also mean (ominously, for Bastrop) ‘a pitch-pine torch.’

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Posted in nature photography

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12 Responses

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  1. The pitch-pine sticks I’ve always used for fire starters are exactly that: little pitch-pine torches. Two or three usually are sufficient to set logs ablaze. The sticks are made from a variety of trees, but it never had occurred to me that the same pitch that makes my sticks so useful could take out a forest with equal efficiency.

    The needles in the bottom photo bear a slight, and slightly ironic, resemblance to fireworks. And I’m really fond of the curved branch in the middle of the top photo. It looks so graceful in the midst of all that angularity.

    shoreacres

    February 25, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    • In addition to the torches of the resinous pine trees themselves, there was also a thick layer of dry pine needles on the ground, the accumulation of decades. There was fire from the ground all the way up to the crowns of the trees.

      I never would have made the connection between the slightly curving needles in the third photograph and the traces left in the sky by fireworks. Fire was a torch for the imagination in this case.

      I hadn’t paid any attention (at least not consciously) to the curving branch in the middle of the top photograph. I don’t even know what kind of tree it was from. You’re good at picking up on things like that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2016 at 7:45 AM

  2. Fire stimulates new growth.

    Jim Ruebush

    February 25, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    • It’s true, and Bastrop is an excellent (if sad) example.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2016 at 1:51 PM

      • I have a friend who does forest assessments in the south and the NW. Periodic fire is important for the long term health of a forest. He gets a lot of push back from those who don’t want ANY trees to burn. They want no fires. He has dramatic evidence from the fires last fall in WA state near his cabin.

        Jim Ruebush

        February 25, 2016 at 2:35 PM

        • My (admittedly limited) understanding is that too much fire suppression can lead to huge conflagrations because of the large amounts of fuel that build up.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 25, 2016 at 3:15 PM

          • Yes. And it suppresses new growth. Controlled burns are quite effective. They can be kept contained and done under favorable weather conditions.

            Jim Ruebush

            February 25, 2016 at 3:54 PM

            • The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center here does its share of controlled burns and lends its expertise to landowners wanting to follow suit.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 25, 2016 at 7:09 PM

  3. Fire has long been a tool used by natives in various regions to regenerate the forests. Most folks think of fires as tragic events but in many cases they are quite beneficial. It’s nice to see this area coming back and those long needles are indeed impressive.

    Steve Gingold

    February 25, 2016 at 6:05 PM

    • Burning is a natural process, but in this case I wish a much smaller area had burned. It’ll be decades before people can enjoy the pine forest to the degree they did before. I won’t be here to see it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2016 at 7:11 PM

  4. Here’s an HNPAT post about the planting of a different kind of pine in the Big Thicket today, along with a couple of nice photos of longleaf pines. It’s nice to see this kind of work going on across the state.

    shoreacres

    March 13, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    • Thanks for remembering this post and making the connection to the project in the Big Thicket. I was there once, but it was years and years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 13, 2016 at 8:03 PM


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