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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Oct 21


Posted on October 21, 2016 at 1:54 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Many years ago, Harve Presnell sang a song, "They Call the Wind Maria," from the movie and hit Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon. Lines in the song spoke of loss and of hearing the wind "wail and whinin'."

Wind can be so destructive. As an arborist, I know the damage that can be done by falling trees and broken limbs to everything in their wake. For many years I have recommended pruning evergreen trees to prevent them from forming sails and being ripped apart by the wind. During those years I had not considered the possibility of a deciduous tree falling into that niche. Last week's storm, however, told a different story.

Yellowwood remains
 Remains of yellowwood tree showing signs of heart rot
The gale winds we experienced in Lassen did their wailing and whining relentlessly during the night. In the morning, I assessed the property for damage. The greenhouse door was askew but fixable. The view to the chicken house, however, exposed itself in a way never seen before. The American yellowwood tree, Cladrastis kentukea, that stood proudly between the house and chicken coop had mysteriously disappeared. In its stead was a 3-foot piece of wood—what was left of the tree trunk. I found the rest of the tree 30 feet away. 

A conk, or mushroom growing on a tree, is an indicator of wood decay.
The tree had yet to turn its brilliant yellow before shedding its leaves for winter. Instead, the thick foliage created that deadly sail used by the wind to fell it. The remaining portion of the tree told another story, too. Though the tree was relatively young, the broken trunk revealed signs of a fungal disease known as heart rot. The disease had not yet progressed far enough to disclose telltale signs of conks (mushrooms growing on the wood). Unbeknownst to me, the tree trunk was weakened. Eventually the fungus would have taken the tree.

Winter is rapidly approaching, and with oncoming storms we need to be cognizant of trees in our gardens and outlying areas that can be affected by winter conditions. Marin has many native and non-native trees that are naturally weak-wooded. Eucalyptus, pine, cypress, fir and bay trees can have difficulties withstanding the high winds experienced in Marin. Before branches are compromised, or roots fail to hold up these magnificent trees, consult with a good arborist to ensure Maria doesn't play havoc as she did with the yellowwood tree in my garden. The time and expense now will be well worth it in the near future.


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