Category Archives: Exotic and Interesting Trees

Hearst Castle’s Trees, Plants, Bathrooms & a Burping Sea Lion

This is not your typical tour of Hearst Castle, but is specifically for lovers of gardens, trees, and outdoor scenery including background info on how the gardens came to be. Of course, we’ll take you on a tour of all five stories of the famous Hearst Castle including Mr. Heart’s private suite and bedroom and bathrooms. The video ends with a visit to a nearby bunch of bickering and snorting sea lions including a one ton grandpa sea lion showing off his prowess at burping. Please enjoy!

The World Class Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden—50,000 Cacti and More!

Are you fascinated by cacti (or cactuses) of all shapes and sizes including the unusual and weird? Well, then, take a quick tour of, by some accounts, Phoenix, Arizona’s top tourist attraction, one of America’s top botanical gardens, and, probably, the top desert botanical garden in the world—the Phoenix Botanical Gardens. I’ve been to some of the top botanical gardens in the world, and this is one unlike anything else!

Champoeg State Park’s Giant Douglas Fir Tree

Another giant tree discovered…almost in my backyard!

While visiting Champoeg State Park and Heritage Area recently, I discovered another giant tree—one of the biggest Douglas fir trees I’ve ever seen in this area. I didn’t have to go far to find this one; it was just across the Willamette River from where Good News Tree Service, Inc. calls home and upstream a bit.

This enormous arboricultural wonder is located not far from the granite obelisk monument that marks the spot where the early French, English and American inhabitants of the Oregon Territory voted in 1843 to make Oregon a part of the United States instead of England. This tree witnessed this historic event!

I didn’t have a tape measure with me, but I estimate this tree to be about eight-and-one-half feet in diameter at breast height. I’m over six feet tall, and the tree is much wider than I am tall. I’m guessing that this fir tree is at least 500 years old.

Botanical Gardens of England, Guernsey, Ireland, Scotland & Paris

This video chronicles my recent trip to the British Isles and Ireland where I visited numerous botanical gardens and natural wild areas including the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew near London, Blarney Castle Gardens in Ireland, Powerscourt Estate Gardens in Ireland, the Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Dunrobin Castle gardens in northern Scotland, Holyrood Castle gardens in Edinburg, Scotland plus gardens in Paris. Please enjoy.

Wilsonville’s Willamette River Historic Log Raft Cable Trees

Recently, the City of Wilsonville, as spearheaded by Wilsonville City Councilor and former Wilsonville mayor Charlotte Lehan, placed a Oregon historical marker in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park honoring several cable trees on the banks of the Willamette River as State of Oregon Heritage Trees.

So what is a cable tree?

Years ago when logging was the main driver in Oregon’s economy making this state the number one timber producer in the U.S., huge numbers of trees (billions of board feet per year) were being logged out of local forests each year. In many cases, the most economical way to get logs from the forest to the sawmill was to floats them down rivers like the Willamette. Huge log rafts would be created and then cabled and chained together and pulled downriver by tugboats where they would be tied up to trees (and sometimes pilings) along the riverbank waiting their turn to be hauled to the sawmill.

I still remember in the 1960s and 1970s seeing tugboats pulling enormous log rafts through downtown Portland’s Willamette River. It was a common sight that we took for granted. It wasn’t unusual to see multiple log rafts tied up near Ross Island along the river bank. Today when you travel up the Columbia River, or along some of Oregon’s coastal rivers, you can still see many old, rotting pilings that were used for that purpose decades ago. Such practices were part of Oregon’s illustrious logging history.

Today, many of these old anchor trees are still visible, including several along the Willamette River in Wilsonville. The scars from the cables can still be clearly seen in some trees, and other trees even have remnants of old cables and other hardware imbedded in them that the trees have often grown around.

Please enjoy the photos of some of these historical Wilsonville trees.

This historical marker is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park about 150 feet to the right of the path that goes down to the public boat dock area.
This historic cottonwood cable tree is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park downriver a few hundred yards from the public boat dock.
This historic cottonwood cable tree is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park downriver a few hundred yards from the public boat dock.
This historic Douglas fir cable tree is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park about 150 feet to the right of the path that leads down to the public boat dock.
This Douglas fir cable tree is located across the river from Memorial Park in the Charbonneau District area.

How old is that tree way up in the mountains? Hint: It’s older than you think!

Jefferson Park at an elevation off 6,000 foot is located at the base of 10,499 foot tall Mount Jefferson—Oregon’s second tallest mountain. Can you guess how old these trees are?

2012 Research

I conducted the following study in Jefferson Park, Oregon, which is located at the NW side of the base of Mount Jefferson (10,499 feet high). The elevation of this alpine park is approximately 6,000 feet above sea level.

The tree ring counts were made on dead trees, which I cut, and then counted the growth rings (one ring per year) with the help of a 10X power hand lens. I counted the tree rings of the cross section of each trunk four times to insure accuracy.

Tree Type        Tree Diameter       Number of Tree Rings # of Rings per Inch

Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)     2.75 inches       45             16

Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) 1 inch             20                    20

Type unknown     6.25             80             13

Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) 2.75             70             31

Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) 2.75             150             54

Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) 3.25             130             40

I noted several things from this study:

  • The average number of rings per inch of the above trees is 29. This means that, on average, a 10 inch diameter tree at the 6,000 foot level in Jefferson Park is 290 years old! In the Willamette Valley below these same mountains, which is at or slightly above sea level, a similar aged tree would theoretically be four or five feet in diameter. 
  • Subalpine firs seem to have a slower growth rate than mountain hemlocks, which is by far the dominant species of conifer in the Jefferson Park area.
  • The trees that grew out in the open tend to grow faster than those that are under the shadow of larger trees (that are 12 to 24 inches in diameter) and are thus competing for scarce soil resources and sunlight.
  • The growing season in Jefferson Park is approximately only three to four months long each year.
  • Trees that are 20 inches or more in diameter in Jefferson Park (of which there are a vast number), must be of immense ages— probably 500 to 600 years old.
My son Jared is standing in a conifer forest at the 7,000 foot level. Although these trees are small, many of them are hundreds of years old.

2019 Research

In August of 2019, I conducted similar research at Demaris Lake (located below Chambers Lakes in area between the Middle Sister and South Sister mountains—each is well over 10,000 feet high—on the east side of the Cascades) as I did at Jefferson Park in 2012. There I examine the dead root of a white bark pine (Pinus albicaulis) at the 6,000 foot elevation. The diameter of the root was 4.5 inches. A one inch diameter root section had 100 growth rings making the tree root some 450 years old. The tree root was dead. For how long, it’s impossible to say based on simple visual observation. My guess based on the decay of the log from which the root came would be about 50 to 100 years making the root somewhere between 500 to 550 years old.

A 4.5 inch cross section of a tree root that is 450 years old and it has been dead for probably 50 to 100 years on top of that!

Conclusion

In the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington in the 6,000 to 7,000 foot elevations, there are countless numbers of pines, firs and hemlocks that are of immense ages. I suspect that most intrepid trekkers to these lofty alpine regions give these trees little more than a passing thought, much less give them the respect that they deserve as ancient entities and survivors in some of the harshest growing conditions on the planet. 

Moreover, it is amazing to think that the cousins of these same trees that exist in ideal growing conditions near sea level in the valleys below at the same age are four to six feet in diameter!

So next time you find yourself high in the mountains surrounding by these ancient conifers, I encourage you to take a selah moment to pause and reflect on these coniferous oldsters some of whose roots go back nearly to the Columbian era. Let these trees help you to get in touch with yourself—with your own ancestral roots. Let them to “speak” to you about being a survivor, about beauty, about growing old gracefully, about weathering the storms of life, about having your “roots” anchored firmly and deep in the good soil of virtue, about resilience and solidity in the face of an ever-changing environment. 

How does such an old specimen make you feel? Young? Small? Temporary? Humble? How does this affect your view of life—what you do, who you are and the mark­ you will leave on this earth—your own legacy?

There is much to learn from trees. Please take a moment and think about it. Better yet, go out into the woods and hang out with some trees. Take a note pad and record your thoughts as trees teach you something about yourself and life in general.

Moreover, it is amazing to think that the cousins of these same trees that exist in ideal growing conditions near sea level in the valleys below and are the same age as  are four to six feet in diameter!

So next time you find yourself high in the mountains surrounding by these ancient survivors, I encourage you to take a selah moment to pause and reflect on these coniferous oldsters some of whose roots go back to a barely post-Columbian era. Let these trees help you to get in touch with yourself—to “speak” to you about being a survivor, about beauty, about growing old gracefully, about weather the storms of life, about having your “roots” anchored deep in good soil, about resilience and solidity in the face of an ever-changing environment. 

How does such an old specimen make you feel? Young? Small? Temporary? How does this affect your view of life—what you do, who you are and the mark you will leave on this earth?

There is much to learn from trees. Please take a moment and think about it. Better yet, go out into the woods and hang out with some trees. Take a note pad and record your thoughts as trees teach you something about yourself and life in general.

Nathan Discovers More Giant Trees

On his global and never-ending quest to discover and photograph giant trees, Nathan has found several more to add to the list right in his own backyard. Please enjoy these wonders of nature!

Nathan found this giant old-growth Douglas fir tree while hiking with Jared in Silver Falls State Park here in western Oregon. This mammoth is about seven feet in diameter at breast height, but is small compared to some of the monsters firs that were logged that were logged from this state a century ago. This tree’s ancestors were twice this size!
A cathedral of old growth Douglas fir trees. Nathan, the Treevangelist, could easily preach the good news of the importance of trees (and the Tree of Life, as well) from this “church pulpit.” The wind whistling around the these lofty spires would match the mellifluous serenity of any Gothic cathedral’s pipe organ.
While we’re at Silver Falls State Park, we can’t leave the area without a picture of trees against the backdrop of one of the area’s many waterfalls.
We’re coming into Willamette Mission State Park near Kaiser, Oregon. Notice the tree in the middle against the skyline? Doesn’t look like much from here, but it’s the largest tree of its species in North America!
This humungous black cottonwood is 155 feet tall.
It is more than eight feet in diameter at breast height and is some 235 years old.
Though not a world record holder by any means, this coastal redwood tree is the largest that I have found in my home town of Wilsonville, Oregon. It is about 100 years old.