Category Archives: Exotic and Interesting Trees

North Dakota’s Pitiful and Yet Amazing Forest

Jared and Nathan Lawrence of Good News Tree Services, Inc. exploring a North Dakota forest.

God bless North Dakota. This state has a bleak and somewhat forlorn majesty and beauty of its own, although sometimes you have to look below the surface to find it. But trees, due to the lack thereof, are not this state’s crowning glory, and the trees that are here have little to boast about compared to their glorious cousins that inhabit the lofty mountains and verdant valleys of the western regions of the Pacific Northwest.

In all reality, it seems that North Dakota has more bent, tilting, and clanking farm windmills, more lifeless, and rusting century-old threshing machines sleeping silently out in farmers’ fields along with countless grain silos standing as sentinels over railroad tracks, as well as abandoned and derelict barns and houses than it has trees trees. So when I discovered that the Minot area of north central North Dakota, just below the Canadian border, where I am visiting family, had an experimental forest and an arboretum, this tree geek arborist had to check it out.

Forest and arboretum, I mulled in my mind. Naturally this Oregon native conjured up park-like images in his fertile imagination.

Flat, open farmland in North Dakota. Yes. Treed forests? Not so much.

To get to this forest, we had to drive for miles through endless, virtually treeless fields of wheat, soybean, rapeseed, flaxseed and sunflower along with pastures speckled with sheep and cattle sprawling across the pancake flat landscape as far as the eye could see, while traveling at 70 miles per hour on a straight, virtually carless highways that reached to the horizon. The only trees, for the most part, were the phalanx like windbreaks planted around the occasional lone farmhouse to shield it from the howling winds and the searing summer heat. The landscape also boasted, if you can call it that, a few thirsty trees growing along the fringes of a few creeks and watersheds here and there, and along old fence lines where birds have perched and deposited tree seeds. After all of this, we finally reached the Denbigh Experimental Forest.

As a native Pacific Northwesterner, who has spent a lifetime tramping up and down in our coastal and Cascade Mountains, I wasn’t sure what to expect in North Dakota where there are probably more honking Canada geese grazing in wheat fields than trees.

My initial response was: “This is it??? This is what they call a forest?”

The Denbigh Experimental Forest in northwestern North Dakota east of Minot.

We exited our car and hit a hiking trail. Immediately the forest floor was littered with the carcasses of countless trees that had succumbed to the pitiless ravages of the fierce climate and harsh growing conditions that this region offers its flora. Many more trees were standing lifeless or were half dead. The fierce plains winds had knocked countless trees down. Many more were leaning precariously against their neighbors for support, creaking eerily in the wind as they rubbed themselves raw against one another. After nearly a hundred years, few trees were more than 60 feet tall and a foot or two in diameter. In western Oregon from where I come, trees of this age would be more than twice as tall and thick. Needless to say, I was not impressed, to say the least.

But I had come this far to see said forest, so I was determined to discover something unique and wonderful about it. I refused to be put off by its shabby and pitiful outward appearance.

And sure enough, I was in for a pleasant surprise. You’d think by now, at my age, I’d have learned not to judge a book by its cover.

Yes, on the surface, what I found, in all honesty, was the about the saddest forest I had ever seen in my life of traveling in some 22 countries on four continents. Yet, it was still a forest, and in my book, this is something still to be cherished and even respected. Again, it might take some creative searching, but I was hopefully predetermined to find something special here.

Some of the more stately trees in this forest include Scotch pine and aspen.

The Denbigh Experimental Forest was established by the USDA Forest Service in 1931 “to determine which trees could survive and thrive in the harsh northern Great Plains climate,” says the brochure at the forest’s parking lot kiosk. Sadly, in its past life, this 636 acre site had been “extensively over-plowed and overgrazed during the early part of the 20th century, leaving wind-blown sand dunes”, according to Wikipedia. As a result of man’s mismanagement, it had become a wind-blown, eroded and forsaken dust bowl.

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Another Tree Saved from the Saw

The owner of this house was ready to have us take down this large sycamore tree because its roots were lifting his sidewalk. Had I been a greedy arborist, I could have charged him a lot of money and removed the tree as he wished. However, I told him how he could cut some roots, install a root barrier to prevent the roots from growing under his sidewalk in the future, thus saving the tree. Needless to say, he was elated at being able to keep his tree and save a boat load of money to boot.

Saving trees from the saw doesn’t seem to be a popular thing among many tree services, who prefer, instead, to make a quick buck while preying on people’s fears and ignorance about trees. As an example of this, I received a desperate call from a homeowner who lives in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. He has a large maple tree that he believes is savable, but that the City and a several tree services have told him must come out. A couple of arborist told him that the tree can be saved with some pruning to remove some hazardous branches; however, the city has sent him a demand letter that he remove it or they plan to trespass onto his property and remove it and put a lien on his house for the costs involved. No local tree services want to go up against the city on this issue, so are acquiescing to city’s demands, even though they know they can save the tree.

Thus, this man saw my blog where I brag about the trees we save, and he called me hoping I could help him even though I live more than 1,200 miles from him. I gave him a lot of free advice on how to deal with the situation, who to contact, and how to save his tree.

We are trying to make a difference by making the world a more beautiful place one tree at a time.

Speaking of beautiful trees, here are some photos of trees that I recently took. Please enjoy.

A carpet of Oregon grape in a forest of Douglas-fir trees not far from my house.
A big leaf maple tree trunk sculpture in a forest near my home.
A cool autumn morning at Champoeg State Park.
A frosty fall morning on the Deschutes River in La Pine, Oregon.
A ponderosa pine tree in Central Oregon.
The bark scales of a ponderosa pine tree.
Nathan Lawrence of Good News Tree Service, Inc. in Wilsonville, Oregon

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.