Friday, December 24, 2010

A Pictorial Ode to Black Oak and Guests

Tomorrow morning I'll post 10 photos, taken today, of California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii, with some natural history notes. I wanted this post to have today's date because I took the photos today in a very quiet and peaceful place, ecstatic that I was not at a mall.

It's now tomorrow morning. Happy Birthday, Greg! These oaks are living along the road to Oakland Feather River Camp, about half way between the green bridge and the camp entrance. The green bridge is not very green any more, but is still known by that name by locals and long-time camp visitors. It's the last bridge over Spanish Creek on the way to camp.

The top photo is a straight-up view of one of the more stately large oaks. The pattern of branching is distinct from other hardwoods in the area such as alder and maple. The second photo down is of a cluster of pretty good sized oaks near the creek. One trunk sports a scar from a missing branch that looks typical of black oak scars. These scars often become the entryway for cavity-nesting birds, mammals, and lizards. The remaining photos are views of a variety of mosses and lichens that take up residence on the bark of oaks. The bark of oaks is strong, just like the wood, so some of the slower-growing lichens prefer oaks because their substarate lasts a long time. These species don't last long on pine bark because the bark itself sheds more often. Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between fungi and alge. The ones with a greener hue have a relatively larger proportion of algae. The mosses that grow on oak bark have a "resurrection" property in that during dry periods they shrink up and get brown and crusty and seem to almost disappear in camouflage among the scales of bark. When it rains, they green up rather quickly - coming back to life, so to speak. The fragrance of oaks and its guests also varies greatly with humidity and temperature. I find it most pleasant during the cool and humid days of fall and spring. Put a chain saw to an oak log and you'll notice an odor reminiscent of new-born babies.

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