Friday, July 8, 2011

Old Trees in Crystal Park

Recently came across a paper written by US Forest Service people about old Ponderosa Pines on the Front Range; how to identify them and the importance of preserving them.  These trees are at risk because of fire suppression over the past 100 years or so.  In the past, smaller trees around them were burned by periodic fires, thereby removing the means for fire to get into the crowns of these old trees.  Today, because of fire suppression, they are surrounded by trees that are much larger than in the past.  These trees act as “ladders” for any fire to climb into the crown of the old trees and kill them.  The paper stated that there are Ponderosas on the Front Range in excess of 500 years old and that they are not necessarily large trees.  There is a tree on Mt. Rosa (near Crystal Park) that is 780 years old.
In the past week or so, Colorado Springs Utilities has had contract crews in Crystal Park cutting trees that endanger power lines.  This is done every few years.   A reasonably good sized piece of a beetle-killed Ponderosa was noticed, and the rings counted to see how old it was.  Here’s the result:
This tree was 343 years old and so it sprouted in 1668.  The nail is about 3 1/2 inches long.  The configuration of the rings is asymmetrical; the trunk has a diameter of about 17 inches at its widest not a really big tree.  It was a surprise that Ponderosa Pines lived this long (and much longer).  Based on the descriptions contained in the paper and observations of other trees, there are some really old Ponderosa pines here in Crystal Park.  Follow up will be done in the future.