Sunday, October 16, 2011
Sometimes, a little knowledge can be dangerous. Take, for instance, the case of land managers and Eastern red cedar. The rightful place of these stately gnarled trees is bluffs, cliff faces, places where fire doesn't travel. When cedars exist in native woodland and glade settings, they're usually artifact of overgrazing and fire suppression. So when well-intentioned folks working on ecosystem restoration projects see fit to remove all cedars from the landscape, including those three hundred or more years old craggy cedars on bluffs, it's usually because they don't know any better. If you've ever been on a boat in Table Rock Lake around Branson, you must have seen the cedars on the bluff faces there--many of them are hundreds years old and should not be removed. They're supposed to be there.
Similarly, there are those who despise sugar maples because of their supposed fire intolerance. If you visit an area that was, according to witness tree records, a post oak-black oak-blackjack oak woodland and it is now a monoculture of sugar maples, I agree--there's a problem...a problem likely related to land clearing at settlement, and an active fire suppression program that allowed for a monoculture of sugar maples to rise up from the once fire-mediated ground. But sugar maples are a naturally occurring part of the fire-mediated Ozark woodland system in certain settings. Those settings are most often perched on Burlington limestone bedrock and usually associated with a white oak dominance.
Visit the few remaining old growth woodland tracts outside of St. Louis or Boone County and you'll see terrific woodlands of white oaks that resemble missile silos and big old sugar maples. Sugar maples are a natural part of a limestone woodland in certain settings, like the woodlands I visited this week when all the maples were a brilliant yellow and the Solidago petiolaris was in full bloom. Maples and cedars by their own right aren't to be loathed unless they're out of context with the historic character of a landscape. In some fire shadow/protected dry limestone woodlands, sugar maples are right at home, existing in an area burned on a five year rotation for the past 30 years, and in full fall splendor these days.
(By the way, here's a gruesome photo of a horrific browse line in the maple-dominated woodlands in Cedar Co. Nothing in the understory but sedges, and a perfect browse line in the canopy. It's preposterous for anyone in Missouri to claim we don't have a deer problem in the Ozarks.)
Posted by Allison Vaughn at 9:28 PM