Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Where there is life, there is a continual struggle to survive. There are always more living things than there is space in which to live. At Blue Jay Barrens, billions of seeds of hundreds of plant species are produced each year. Each seed has the potential to develop into a mature plant, but the landscape is already full of plants, so it’s going to be tough for these new plants to find a place to grow. I see evidence of this battle for dominance everywhere I look. Decades ago a seed of the Tuliptree, Liriodendron tulipifera, managed to germinate and begin to grow on this rocky hillside.

That Tuliptree overcame many obstacles to reach its present size. An extremely dry, rocky hillside does not provide the best of growing conditions for this species. Cedars were already established here when this tree began to grow and blocked a lot of the necessary sunlight. A cedar that may have caused the death of the tiny Tuliptree seedling was pushed aside as another cedar fell. This may have given the fast growing Tuliptree the opportunity it needed to put on some height.

Pushed aside, but still living, the cedar still poses a threat. The Tuliptree is growing around the strangling roots of the cedar. This may cause a defect at the base of the tree that will shorten the Tuliptree’s life expectancy.

The rapid growth of the Tuliptree has allowed it to overtake the cedars that shaded it as a sapling. Now the Tuliptree is producing shade to the detriment of the cedars. As the amount of shade increases, the vitality of the cedars will decline. With enough Tuliptrees doing this same thing, the hillside could be transformed from a cedar to a deciduous forest.

The trunk is sound and should increase greatly in size before this tree gives up its life. This is the kind of rugged bark I always thought of in elementary school as being real tree bark. Back then, if bark didn’t have deep furrows and wide ridges, I didn’t think it deserved to be on a tree.

These remnants of successful flowering are all that are left after the seeds have been distributed over the surrounding area. If this tree gained its position in the forest because of some superior genetic trait, then its offspring may be able to accomplish the same feat.

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