Tree Skirt

Last Monday, The Friends of Crossroads decked the halls of the Collins Learning Center. We invite all to visit the Center between 2:00-4:30 daily check out the Snowy Owl in our Wildlife Exhibit, enjoy our new bird feeding station and see the decorations.

An important step of trimming our “Forest Tree” and “Fish Tree” is arranging the skirts—the fabrics draped around the trunk. In nature, in snowy regions at least, tree skirts happen naturally on some kinds of evergreens.

Skirting is the result of the characteristic “Christmas tree” shape of most evergreens. When the snow load reaches a certain mass, upper branches dip just enough to shed the snow. The snow slides from branch to branch until finally it reaches the bottom of the tree. There, the accumulated weigh of all the snow is great enough to force the lowest branches to the ground.

In years of heavy snow, these lower branches can be so weighted down, they lose their flexibility, so even after the snow melts, the lower limbs are pressed into the soil. Often a thick and pretty evergreen skirt is formed.

But that’s not the end of the process. In certain species, spruce for example, when the branches are embedded in soil, roots grow. Once root systems are established on the grounded branches, new trunks sprout. So around the original tree, a whole colony of young trees may develop.

If this process proceeds for a long period of time, whole groves of evergreen trees can become established. In snowy and mountainous climates, which usually have short and hostile growing seasons, skirting can be one of the most reliable forms of tree reproduction.

We often think of snow as harmful to trees—and admittedly, it can do tremendous damage. But sometimes, heavy drifts of snow can give the gift of life in an evergreen forest.

Speaking of gifts, the members of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold their monthly meeting at 7:00 on December 5 at which their Astronomy Basics presentation will be “Don’t Buy a Crummy Telescope for a Present” and that is excellent advice. (Many kids have lost interest in astronomy and many closets have become overcrowded because of inappropriate holiday telescope purchases. Don’t do it!) Dr. John Beck will present the program “Misconceptions in Astronomy” and time permits, an “Ask an Astronomer” Q&A will be offered. Meetings are held at the Stonecipher Astronomy Center 2200 Utah Street in Sturgeon Bay.

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