Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cottonwood trees and winter botany

I have spent several weeks looking for cottonwood trees. Since mid-January I've been watching for them. When you're used to checking for foliage as the give-away, January and February can be tricky months.

The trees have to be juuuust right for me to harvest them. They have to not be along a busy highway or road. They have to have boughs I can reach. They have to be in a place where I don't need to cross a fence or get into or too near a creek. Also, they cannot be within sight of someone's house. ... Let's face it, when I see someone loitering too long near my place, I look twice and three times. So I gather in solitude as much as possible.

These tall, shapely cottonwoods are my backroads Ents!
Many (so many) cottonwoods have lovely fat buds that I can see but not reach. *Shrug* such is the nature of cottonwoods. They have a distinctive shape if allowed to grow naturally and they tend to be TALL. Some have branches that happen to have a couple sprouts down low on the trunk, and that's where I got many of my buds.

Two of the trees I harvested, though, were non-typical.

One looked as if it had its top ripped off by a storm. It had a few years of new growth coming off the stub that were at least 20 ft tall themselves. But it had one generous older limb from the original trunk reaching over the ditch to the road. Its feet were in a tiny creek or seep, which is why it survived the ravages of the storm, I presume.

The other tree did NOT look like a conventional cottonwood. It was broad, not tall, had low limbs that reached out to the sides in all directions, and just looked *wrong*! As I approached this tree, I said mentally "The shape is all wrong!" But the bark was right, and as I slowed on that county road and peered up to see silhouettes of the tips of its branches against the sky, I could see that I had hit the jackpot. These were certainly the right buds. There was no fence to this former acreage, the old corncrib was falling down and the remains of the house were no longer to be seen.

As you know, if you've read previous posts on this blog, I don't harvest as much as is there, and I walked about 30% around that tree and had enough, this without even harvesting half of everything in sight. It really is a generous tree. I hope no one clears that land any time soon, as I'll be checking on it as the seasons progress.

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