Conifers Around the World

Feliratkozás Conifers Around the World hírcsatorna csatornájára
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Araucaria araucana - Monkey Puzzle Tree

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The only temperate-zone species of the genus, this Araucaria is amongst the most unique species of all conifers. Found in the scenic environments of southern Chile and Argentina, it is quite often associated with showy volcanoes and forms strikingly interesting open stands or thick forests, usually with species of Nothofagus.

Our exploration of the Araucaria habitats took place in January-February 1996 (though Zsolt visited the place previously, to make arrangements for the planned Earthwatch expedition). There were two teams that assisted our "documenting dendroflora" in the beautiful setting on the foothills of Volcán Llaíma (3124 m), with a base camp of tents and cabins, some of the latter are built around living trees of Araucaria!

Hard to imagine a better place for basic botanical documentation in a national park (here, Conguíllio N.P.), this was made possible in cooperation with the local forestry conservation office of CONAF, and colleagues from both the Departamento de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad Catolica de Temuco and the Universidad de ChileFacultad de Ciencia, Departamento de Biologia. Research permit was provided by the UG. Patrimonio Silvestre. – Of the many wonderful hours, a most memorable one was visiting the "Mother of the Forest" as they call the largest tree of Araucaria here... On a warm Thursday, January 16, the team makes an excursion on the trail "Los Carpinteros" named after the read-headed black woodpecker, the carpintero negro (Campephilus magellanicus).

We measure the tree: it is 48 m high, with a circumference of 633 cm (DBH 201.5 cm). Our Temuco colleague, Marco Cortes uses an increment borer to identify age; the growth rate is roughly 1mm/year so a quick counting would result in 1280 years… What a privilege to take a group photo with the ancient Araucaria! Bottom row from left, Marco Cortes, our co-Principal Investigator, behind him is Melanie Chambers, then Zsolt Debreczy, Gyöngyi Biró, Ruth Bunemann; standing from left are Kristin Krause, Pat Fox, Elois Thomas, Kristine Humphries, Hans Knapp, and Keith Guthrie. Many thanks again for all their contributions!

Juniperus barbadensis var. barbadensis - Barbados Juniper

sze, 11/14/2018 - 12:56

Juniperus barbadensis var. barbadensis was long on the wish list of to-be-documented conifers for both the Dendrological Atlas and Conifers Around the World. J. b. var. lucayana, the variety named well over a century later than the species still occurs in broadly scattered small populations in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica, but the type variety had become extremely rare on Barbados by 1830, and soon disappeared from there and the neighboring islands.

In 1911 a small group of specimens was discovered on Saint Lucia, on the peak of the hardly accessible volcanic cone Petit Piton (743 m). This juniper really is among the world's rarest conifers! - So we had two options: seek for publication-quality photographs and voucher specimens; or get there and document the plant for our projects. Our search for photos and specimens was unsuccessful while finishing Conifers Around the World was a pressuring goal. Finally, it was a team of Hungarian friends, which undertook the adventure of getting to Saint Lucia in the summer of 2006: András Vízy, Zoltán Szmodits, Zoltán Babati, András Sándor, and Attila Ékes. But before, our DendroPress colleague Kinga was good enough to find noted floristic researcher Mr. Roger Graveson on Saint Lucia, whose advice led the team to Melvin, a local guide.

With his help the team scaled the peak of Petit Piton, collected samples of the juniper and its associates and brought back a series of precious photos. Some of these are now seen in pages 844 and 848 of Conifers Around the World. Subsequently the associated plants were identified by Roger and the duplicates shipped to Budapest. Thanks for all that we could feature this plant and its homeland in our conifer monograph.

Juniperus semiglobosa - Tien Shan Foetid Juniper

sze, 10/24/2018 - 12:42
Juniperus semiglobosa is a common juniper in the high mountains of Central Asia and we have sufficiently documented it for our Conifers Around the World (see page 353). However, it was noted by us in a 2003 expedition to Kyrgyzstan that it is variable species requiring more study in the future.   A good opportunity arrived quite recently with the sponsorship of Mr. Elemér Barabits (Altekfa Nursery, Hungary) with whom we could travel to Bishkek and from there to the nearby mountains (the western ranges of Tien Shan) to have a new look at this interesting plant.   We visited Ala-Archa National Park, south of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and the nearby Issyk-Ata valley with similar assemblages of juniper than in Ala-Archa N.P. ("archa" means 'juniper' in the local language).   The various specimens of J. semiglobosa are up to 10 m high, with trunk diameter of the oldest tree we observed, about 1 m; the foliage is variable from drooping to more ascending, very lax to more dense. It is a dioecious species, and this time we found only one monoecious tree (among about 100). The whirlwind expedition was organized with the helpful assistance of Dr. Georgy Lazkov, one of the best experts of the flora of the country, of the Botanical Institute of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences to whom we are indebted.   Photos:
- Juniperus semiglobosa, Ala-Archa National Park (ca. 1900 m)
- Elemér Barabits with a compact growing specimen of J. semiglobosa
- Dr. Georgy Lazkov noting the coordinates, Ala-Archa National Park
- István Rácz with an old tree of Juniperus semiglobosa
- Juniperus semiglobosa (larger specimens) with three other junipers at Issyk-Ata (ca. 1800 m)

Abies bornmuelleriana - Bithynian Fir

p, 10/19/2018 - 12:25

Our first encounter with this species takes us back to 1980, the time of the first exploration of Turkey's conifers. That time we went there in the autumn, and had pleasantly summer-like days.

There was no snow (yet) on Ulu Dağ (2543 m) at around 1800-1900 m, which is around timberline there. Not long ago, in the spring of 2010, Kathy Musial, our editor-in-chief, organized a trip to Turkey and we accompanied her on the tour. This time, in the spring, the upper levels of the mountain were snow-covered, sometimes a meter deep around 1800-1850 m where the photographs were taken (see below). Some trees, already around 1800 m and more a little lower, were showing the pollen cone buds.

This re-visit helped to confirm the morphological differences between this tree and Abies nordmanniana (of which it is sometimes considered a subspecies). Abies bornmuelleriana has mostly glabrous branchlets, resinous buds, longer needles with bright silvery lower surfaces. As observed back in 1980 (confirmed by herbarium samples at BP and other places), this species also has longer and wider recurved bracts.

On that first visit we found noteworthy that unlike most true firs, quite a number of small trees barely reaching 2-3 m in height, had well developed cones (we have no comparative observation on A. nordmanniana). – Needless to say, after coming down from Ulu Dağ and approaching sea level we had a real spring again, with all its colors and frangance. And had to get ready for another great mountain, Kaz Daği or Ida Mountains, and another fir species of Turkey…

Picea schrenkiana - Tien Shan Spruce

sze, 10/17/2018 - 10:00
This spruce is distributed from Uzbekistan to Xinjiang spanning a range of about 1000 km. For our Conifers Around the World, we included a main (habit/habitat) photo that was taken in Xinjiang in 1998. The dark purple closed cones were also documented there.   Later, in 2003 we visited Kyrgyzstan to see this plant in its western range. Then, it was a surprise to find a couple of trees that had green cones (see the reproduction of CAW page 393 below).   Our recent visit to Kyrgyzstan was more focusing on the junipers, but we had a chance to take a couple "wintery" photos of its habitat in Ala-Archa National Park. In spite the late October timing, we did not really feel winter not even at 2200 m where there was snow. When the sun came out the south slopes warmed up so pleasantly that we felt like early spring. The colors were different though, really marking the upcoming cold season (temperatures here can go down to -30°C).   Trees of Picea schrenkiana are very tall (up to 60 m) trees at some places, but here in the drier stretches of the mountains were less than 25 m. At this habitat the spruce was found to be associating with four junipers (J. communis var. saxatilis, or as treated in local floras: J. sibiricaJ. pseudosabinaJ. sabinaJ. semiglobosa) and shrub species including LoniceraRosaSalix, and Spiraea.

Sequoiadendron giganteum - GIANT SEQUOIA

k, 10/16/2018 - 12:46

Featuring "charismatic" species, like Giant Sequoia, in Conifers Around the World has been somewhat different than in most cases. The largest and smallest conifers are equally treated in the book with species descriptions about 1800 characters long.

We only made additional discussions when unique features, natural history phenomena or taxonomical issues required more details. In the case of this monotypic species, the genus description (Vol. 1, page 121) provides the basic morphological details, which allowed (as in other cases) the species description, page 647, to focus more on the natural history.

In the introductory part, page 38 briefly refers to the interesting question of "how can water reach the tops of tall trees such as a Giant Sequoia more than 80 m above the ground, …" and "how the water evaporating through the stomata is pulled upward through the xylem by cohesion between the bipolar water molecules". In the Western North America chapter, Vol. 2, we were permitted to use a photo of the General Sherman tree that appeared in National Geographic Magazine (1957; the tree has lost a major branch in 2006 so a recent photo would look somewhat different). The range of the species is given on page 566 alongside a photograph by Jeff Bisbee (Nevada) of a group of trees in Mariposa Grove. Since 1853, Giant Sequoia is widely planted as a landscape tree in the temperate zones; one example of an arboretum view is shown here from Wakehurst Place.

Photo: Zsolt Debreczy - Istvan Racz


h, 10/15/2018 - 12:27

To document this tree in Sikkim, in late fall 2003 we started our journey together with botanist friend and tour leader dr. Mohan Siwakoti from Kathmandu. From the capital of Nepal we took a flight to Birathnagar, from there took a jeep ride to Kakarvitta (a border town between Nepal and India) and then to Gangtok, capital of Sikkim (state of India).

From that base a wonderful guide, who also became a friend, Mr. Bhaila Tashi was leading our small team (Elemér, Géza, Gergő, Anita, István) to various places in Sikkim, including the lower slopes of Khangchendzonga (with the main peak of 8586 m, the third highest mountain in the world).

From the town of Yoksum (1700-1800 m) there is a trail leading to one of the protected areas established in the surroundings of this sacred mountain. The area has huge tracts of almost undisturbed primary forests from about 2500 m up.

Starting in the dark, we had to make a long ascent to the slopes to be in the conifer belt. It took a whole day to reach a small place, Tsokha, at about 3000 m, which is in the midst of Himalayan fir-hemlock forest. Somewhat below this elevation we observed majestic trees of Tsuga dumosa and a few scattered saplings of Abies densa.

The real fir forests showed their best in the morning, with the sun hitting their upper crowns. The largest fir trees were approaching 50 m and trunk diameters exceeding 1 m. Mixed with Tsuga dumosa and several species of Rhododendron, the fir forests continued up to 3700 m, with the last (small and scattered) trees occurring up to 3800 m.

Cones? Almost no cones were produced that year, except a few ones, as we saw a few of them lying on the mossy ground, in one case a little branch having a good cone – sent down probably by squirrels. From these cones and cone fragments we could see the range of cone variation (i.e., bracts almost hidden, or somewhat protruding and either straight or recurved).

Years have passed until, observation and documentation of the cone variation was possible on a different visit in a very different place! It was in Benmore Botanic Garden, part of the world-class institute, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and its affiliated gardens. There we documented a group of Abies densa trees, growing from seeds (or as saplings) collected by botanists in the 1980's in Bhutan. This extremely well documented living collection contains hundreds of individuals or even small groves of plants from allover the world, primarily from subtropical or wet-temperate climate areas.

The relatively young but mature-enough Abies densa trees documented for our project provided a series of coning samples. From that photo documentation we include here 3 coning photos, alongside some other images that together provide a symbolic portrait of the species.

Of the two trunk/bark photos, taken in Sikkim at 3000-3100 m, one is of a younger tree of about 50 cm in diameter, the other one is an old tree with d.b.h. of ca 120 cm.

Photo: Zsolt Debreczy - Istvan Racz

Abies hickelii (Jegenyefenyő)
Abies flinckii

Pinus brutia - Calabrian Pine

p, 10/12/2018 - 12:45

The type species is a common tree in the eastern Mediterranean (its botanically named varieties are more like outlying small populations to the northeast). The common name comes after ancient Brutium (now Calabria in the southern Apennine Peninsula), where its stands are generally considered to be naturalized from ancient cultivation – these are the westernmost occurrences. When traveling in Turkey this pine is frequently found in areas roughly within a 100-km range of the western, southern and northern coasts.

The photos below are from our recent trip to Turkey, in part from the lower ranges of the Toros mountains (at around 500 m in the Akseki region) and the Spil Mt. Milli Parki (national park) near the city of Manisa. Additional pictures were taken in the Dilek Peninsula, at the western coastline of Turkey (Aydın Province).

Here, in the Dilek national park – with full name the Dilek Yarimadasi Büyük Menderes Deltasi Milli Parki (1966) – there is a beautiful canyon running southward from near the north shore of the peninsula. The canyon entrance is guarded by a few old trees of Pinus brutia, their trunks around 1 m in diameter and heights approaching 25 m.

Old pine trees are also numerous in the canyon, scattered in or near the bottom, mingled with Ceratonia siliqua and Platanus orientalis and even with Cupressus sempervirens. However, the cypress likes to hike – more commonly seen high on the steep slopes rather than near the canyon floor (see another blog later).

Our visit took place on April 30 (2010) – as we observed the ovuliferous and pollen cones of the Pinus brutia trees we concluded that pollen shedding occurred about 2 weeks before. At least 3 weeks earlier than for example in Hungary, where we have a 10-m coning tree of this species grown from seed collected during our 1980 trip to western Turkey.

Torreya jackii - Weeping Torreya

cs, 10/11/2018 - 12:47

During a visit to China many years ago we documented a cultivated plant of Torreya jackii for our Dendrological Atlas project. It was more than clear that this is a most distinctive species not only in the genus, but also in comparison with a broader circle of conifers.

It took many years until we could see it in the wild in Zhejiang Province, not far from the native habitat of the Baishanzu fir, in May 1995. This was enough for taking a good series of photos – however, no (arillate) seeds were produced in that population of Torreya jackii in that year… Again, a few years have passed until in September 2003 we could see the species at another location – the Baiyun Quan National Tourist Park near Lusi village, Tonglu County, at around 500 m elevation.

This is a rather undisturbed area with subtropical vegetation containing scattered specimens of the Torreya (in both open places and shady position as an understorey plant) and Cephalotaxus fortunei (mainly as understorey). Associating plants included Ficus sarmentosa, Ilex latifolia, Lindera glauca, Lonicera hypoglauca, Philadelphus sericanthus, Smilax davidiana, Syzygium buxifolium, and others. Searched for seeds – and there were none…!

We were unlucky again. But next year our colleague Jin Xiaofeng, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, was kind enough to email some digital photos of the arillate seeds he could fortunately photograph for us in the same area. Three of these images are marked accordingly (see below).

One of them have been included in the species plate in Conifers Around the World. Thank you again for these, Jin! – Torreya jackii, as turned out after more than 20 years of cultivation in Hungary, has been withstanding severe colds down to -18 degrees Celsius, one of many experiences here with plants of subtropical climates.

Pinus bhutanica - Bhutan White Pine

k, 10/02/2018 - 12:44

It took us 6 years to be able to arrange a conifer-focused botanical exploration in Tibet. With financial help from I.D.R.I. this visit was organized through cooperation with colleagues at the National Herbarium, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, from where 4 colleagues accompanied us with local guidance from the Tibetan Plateau Ecological Institute, Lhasa.

During this memorable expedition we could document a total of 20 conifers. On a mostly clear day, August 9, 2001 we were on the Linzhi-Bomi road heading east to explore the Nychen Kangri area. As we passed the famous location outside Linzhi with giant trees of Cupressus gigantea (which we planned to see on the way back) we began to climb the Zhejila Mountain Range. Stop for Larix speciosadocumentation, later for Juniperus saltuaria and Abies fargesii.

After Lulan the Niyang river valley gets narrower and the endless mountain slopes clothed with thick coniferd-dominated forests could be more closely inspected. The elevation here is around 2500 m a.s.l. Let's have look at one of the pines that occupies the area (the other pine being Pinus densata)...

A handsome specimen tree stands on a cliff above the river – though it is similar to Pinus wallichiana, this one has very fine pendent foliage and thin, pubescent, pruinose branchlets! A few minutes and we conclude – it must be Pinus bhutanica! It comes as a special gift for this trip! – Taking a series of photos, and (10 years passed) the species is now featured in Conifers Around the World, page 398. Some additional photos are included here from the Yi'ong-valley – one of the grandest conifer habitats we ever visited.

The plant marked with an inscription in two photos below, has been observed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; interestingly, the foliage of this tree, an original introduction from Bhutan, has a somewhat silvery sheen while most specimens we have seen in Tibet were green.