Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A rock tree, occupying the baldest domes and pavements: red cedar (Juniperus occidentalis)

Westerm junipers near Noble Lake along Pacific Crest Trail, Alpine County, California
Western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) is found at high altitude in the Sierra Nevada: the shown trees (notice a second one in the background) grows on rock outcrops at the upper Noble Canyon, near Noble Lake along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) between Ebbett's Pass and the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness [1]. This area includes the headwaters of the East Fork of the Carson River. John Muir wrote about western junipers, which he encountered in the moraine lands of the Carson tributaries. He called these trees—having a bright cinnamon-colored bark—red cedars [2]:
The Juniper is preëminently a rock tree, occupying the baldest domes and pavements, where there is scarcely a handful of soil, at a height of from 7000 to 9500 feet. In such situations the trunk is frequently over eight feet in diameter, and not much more in height. The top is almost always dead in old trees, and great stubborn limbs push out horizontally that are mostly broken and bare at the ends, but densely covered and embedded here and there with bossy mounds of gray foliage. Some are mere weathered stumps, as broad as long, decorated with a few leafy sprays, reminding one of the crumbling towers of some ancient castle scantily draped with ivy. Only upon the head waters of the Carson have I found this species established on good moraine soil.
John Muir, 1894.

The typically exposed, burly junipers of open alpine woods and rocky slopes suffer strong winds and avalanches. Yet, individual giants reach an estimated age of 2000 years and older [2,3].

Keywords: conifers, Pinales, Cupressaceae, natural history, Sierra Nevada.

References and notes
[1] Alex Wierbinski: Juniper, Noble Canyon, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Posted on November 15, 2011 [tahoetowhitney.org/content/juniper-noble-canyon-carson-iceberg-wilderness].
[2] John Muir: The Mountains of California. The Century Company, New York, 1894. Note: see pages 144 to 146  in the Penguin Classics Book print of 1985 with an introduction by Edward Hoagland.
[3] The University of Texas at Austin, Native Plant Database: Juniperus occidentalis Hook. [www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=JUOC].

No comments:

Post a Comment