My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Gift of Trees - Part II: Cypress and Willows

Cypress trees are another species our biologist wants to plant in the rookery.  We also need to plant more in The Willows area.  They are very expensive to buy but I thought that was our only option. 

But when I mentioned that by getting all the buttonbush cuttings, the Friends could put more of their Adopt-A-Tree monies toward buying cypress, Laurie, the Trinity NWR biologist, said I could have as many cypress trees as I wanted. Because the lake has been drying up for two years, cypress are sprouting where there is supposed to be six feet of water.  And they will die when if the lake fills back up. I had come in my car and didn't have room so asked if I could come back. She said that she would be gone for a month and Eric, her new intern, would not have anything to do on Mondays. So we made a deal that I would meed with Eric every Monday until I had enough cypress or until the month ran out. 

Baby cypress in foreground
So for the last two Mondays, I met him and we loaded up the mule with buckets, bins, shovels, our water, my camera and set out.  The staff has a Friends member living right on the lake who allows the refuge staff to cut  across their property to get to the now mostly dry lake bed. Of the 800 acres, only 12 to 20 acres actually have any water on them so the mule is the best way to get around.

Eric bringing the mule to our second cypress seedling site

We carefully maneuvered our way around cypress knees and soon cut the track we had made the week before. We followed it into the cypress forest until we found the bare patches of ground that were full of tiny cypress seedlings, ranging from about six to eighteen inches tall.  The ground is a clay that easily lets the shovel cut through  but which also splits easily. So we are seldom sure that we have gotten the entire cypress root. We take the tree and the piece of clay that holds the roots and gently pack them into buckets and bins. It takes two mule loads to fill up the big pick-up. 

Eric digging up a seedling

Eric with a seedling - others are at his feet and also got dug up

A bin full of seedlings - the clumps of heavy clay dirt will harm the seedlings so we have to carefully pack them

And I did a little more than just take pictures - here I'm hauling a bucket of my dug trees to the mule

A mule load of cypress saplings

 It only takes a little over two hours to get a load of trees so before mid-morning, I was on the way back with my wonderful booty. I still don't know how many trees I have but think there are about one hundred  of them. I am still potting up, as I have time, and hope to finish in the next day or two. Meanwhile, the trees are in a few inches of water an I'm making sure the dirt stays moist.

But that is not all.  We came through a huge forest of willow saplings and I asked about getting some of them. Stuart said they didn't need any of them and the water should eventually drown them. So, on my third thip, I got a mix of cypress and willows and found a few buttonbushes I dug as well.  I'm sure many of the little trees will not survive the digging and potting so  I'm potting more than we need.   We can always plant extra ones in other places on the refuge. I haven't gotten a complete count but think I have about one hundred cypress and thirty willow trees. I expect to get another thirty to fifty willow trees from my cuttings so we also have a good stock of willows. They will go in several places on the refuge after the drought breaks. 

Eric watering the newly dug plants - see  the larger willows?

The pickup full of booty
A local volunteer and Friends President, Travis Lovelace, came over and helped me get the cypress potted up.  I still need to finish potting the willows but they are in root balls of dirt and are heavily watered so should be fine if I get them potted by the end of the week. 

Travis potting up cypress - I was the soil mixer and pot filler

Some of about one hundred cypress seedlings in our shade shelter