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John Muir on the Trees of Yosemite (Part 2)

John Muir on the Trees of Yosemite (Part 2)
By J. Zimmerman, Ph.D.

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The trees of Yosemite, as discovered and reported by John Muir, are rapturously described by his own words (concluded).

Also see Recommended Books

Remarkable Trees of the World, a great book by Thomas Pakenham, is a treasury in words and photographs of 60 trees of unusually strong personality. Pakenham visited and photographed them around the world, in North America, remote regions of Mexico, Europe, Japan and other parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Ancient Trees: Trees that Live for a Thousand Years by Anna Lewington and Edward Parker.

On the canyon live oak (Muir calls it mountain live-oak or goldcup oak).

"... the mountain live-oak, or goldcup oak (Quercus chrysolepis), a sturdy mountaineer of a tree, growing mostly on the earthquake taluses and benches of the sunny north wall of the Valley. In tough, unwedgeable, knotty strength, it is the oak of oaks, a magnificent tree."

On the white fir (Muir calls it silver fir).

"In the main river cañon below the Vernal Fall and on the shady south side of the Valley there are a few groves of the silver fir (Abies concolor), and superb forests of the magnificent species round the rim of the Valley."

On the Sierra juniper (Muir calls it red cedar).

"On the tops of the domes is found the sturdy, storm-enduring red cedar (Juniperus occidentalis). It never makes anything like a forest here, but stands out separate and independent in the wind, clinging by slight joints to the rock, with scarce a handful of soil in sight of it, seeming to depend chiefly on snow and air for nourishment, and yet it has maintained tough health on this diet for two thousand years or more. The largest hereabouts are from five to six feet in diameter and fifty feet in height."

On the riverside trees.

"The principal river-side trees are poplar, alder, willow, broad-leaved maple, and Nuttall's flowering dogwood. The poplar (Populus trichocarpa), often called balm-of-Gilead from the gum on its buds, is a tall tree, towering above its companions and gracefully embowering the banks of the river. Its abundant foliage turns bright yellow in the fall, and the Indian-summer sunshine sifts through it in delightful tones over the slow-gliding waters when they are at their lowest ebb."

On the Pacific dogwood (Muir calls it Nuttall's flowering dogwood).

"Some of the involucres of the flowering dogwood measure six to eight inches in diameter, and the whole tree when in flower looks as if covered with snow. In the spring when the streams are in flood it is the whitest of trees. In Indian summer the leaves become bright crimson, making a still grander show than the flowers."

On the maples.

"The broad-leaved maple and mountain maple are found mostly in the cool cañons at the head of the Valley, spreading their branches in beautiful arches over the foaming streams."

On a few other trees.

"Scattered here and there are a few other trees, mostly small -- the mountain mahogany, cherry, chestnut-oak, and laurel. The California nutmeg (Torreya californica), a handsome evergreen belonging to the yew family, forms small groves near the cascades a mile or two below the foot of the Valley."

Book Choice.

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