Wednesday, February 20, 2013
How Old to Let Them Grow?
I pushed through waist high snow yesterday afternoon to prune a number of good looking hardwood trees that I'd noted on earlier walks in the woods. See photo at left of a very nice young Red Oak after pruning. It's a major commitment to identify potential crop trees, improve their growing conditions, remember where they are to keep improving them.
Ironically we all tend to want those best quality trees to become "old growth". Why? For some it's because they equate massive trees with a healthy environment. For me, it's also because the bigger the tree is, the more valuable it can be.
But at what cost do we let our highest quality trees grow to super large diameter? The photo at right shows what can happen when wind comes along and destroys a 120 yr old Red Oak tree. This tree developed a visible weak spot at the point it snapped. There is a lot of valuable lumber in the logs below the snap point. But the task of mobilizing a salvage harvest effort for this particular tree or group of trees is immense. By the time we get around to harvesting in the area of this tree it will be too late to capture its highest lumber or veneer value. What a shame. Time after time I'm reminded that we need to capture our value from our best value trees before they get too old, when we're organized and in the area harvesting according to a sound plan. I will continue to struggle to square this with society's and my own desire to grow super big trees. But I think the more we ponder this the smarter we will get about how to accomplish both goals.