Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cedar in Rock

Cedars are amazing in their ability to grow in a wide range of conditions.  In rich soil, they quickly become towering giants.  In less then ideal conditions, they take a more leisurely path to grandeur.  Even in the most inhospitable situations, they manage to survive.  This cedar growing from a stone is one of my favorites.

The small tree emerges from a narrow fissure at one end of the stone.  The opening is no wider than a dozen sheets of paper, but the tree has managed to penetrate the gap with its roots and has survived here for at least several decades. 

When I first encountered the tree about 25 years ago, it was not much smaller than it is today.  It would be an interesting tree to have growing near the house.  It’s like a natural bonsai.  The stone couldn’t be moved though, because it’s really the end of a bedrock slab protruding above the soil.  I also imagine that the roots have penetrated to a point where they are able to access a reliable source of moisture.  The little tree manages to stay green all summer.

There seems to be a natural pruning cycle at work here that maintains the tree’s dainty appearance.  Instead of the inner needles dieing and falling away as you see in the large trees, it’s the outer needles on this little guy that do an annual die off.  New sprouts from farther down the branch grow out to replace what was lost.

I found a small earthen structure affixed to one of the stems.  The inside was chambered in a fashion similar to an ant gallery.  The structure crumbled quickly as I pried it open.  There were no occupants.

The structure or its former occupant seems to have had some affect on the branch it covered.  So, here’s another instance where I’ve found something new, but learned very little about it.  Each time my mind tucks away a new bit of information; it also stores a myriad of questions about the same subject.  My awareness of things that I don’t know always outpaces my acquisition of new facts.  I’m happy with the amount of knowledge I’ve gained over the years, but I sometimes think my greatest achievement lies in the great wealth of unknowledge I’ve amassed in my lifetime. 


  1. I hear ya brother! I have managed to unmass a great deal of unknowledge on an untold number of unsubjects over the years.

  2. That structure has the look of a tent constructed by ants over scale insects or aphids. Likely constructors are Crematogaster lineolata.

  3. Steve, your winter posts often take more patience from someone as impatient as I am and who is easily more attracted to flashy, colorful things. However, I am glad I took the time to read what you wrote. Provocative. It seems you have a wild, original version of penjing. My husband always says, "The more we know, the more we know we do not know." I, too, believe there is value in being aware of not knowing.

  4. The more we learn, the more we realize we don't know....

  5. Hi Jeff. I’m working hard to become an unknow-it-all.

    Thanks James. “The Ants of Ohio” by Coovert shows that species to be in this county. I’ll check next summer to see if they are doing the same thing. I’ve seen similar structures encasing the trunks and lower branches of cedar seedlings, but I’ve never seen them in situations where they are disconnected from the ground.

    Hi Katie. I’m glad you found something in the text to make up for lack of color in the photos. It’s hard to find much color here in the winter, but I’ll do my best to post some more brilliantly hued items to break up the monotony. When I fill my computer screen with thumbnails of my winter scenes, each shot looks identical to the next. There might be 30 different subjects, but each has the exact same color.

    Hi Lois. I guess when I reach the point where I’m sure I don’t know anything, that will just prove my genius.

  6. Crematogaster tent pics at bugguide:

  7. Thanks James. That looks like what I saw. I'll check for ants next summer.