Pseudotsuga menziesii

The Coast Douglas fir is one of the tallest trees in the world. The Mineral tree, near Mineral, in Lewis County, was measured at 120 meters (393 feet) in 1924. There is a 1901 report of logging a douglas fir 411 feet tall. However, the tallest living Douglas fir today is only 326 feet, easily eclipsed by the largest Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) at 379 feet tall. The tallest tree ever measured was an Australian mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans), 435 feet tall. That tree was also promptly logged.

Douglas fir is still economically important here in Wastern Washington. In 2010, 46,052 thousand board feet of Douglas fir were harvested in King County alone. Douglas fir wood has a very high strength-to-weight ratio, so is used extensively for structural timbers and plywood. Douglas fir also accounts for more than half the Christmas trees produced in Washington State.

Douglas fir is an early seral species. After a disturbance such as fire or logging, the forest can regrow into an almost pure Douglas fir stand, though most timberlands are now planted with seedlings to give them a jump on the red alders (Alnus rubra) which can otherwise shade them out. Since a Douglas fir can live over 750 years, they remain an important species in older forests as well.

Douglas firs begin to produce strobili (cones) at about 12-15 years of age. It takes about 17 months from the start of bud development to cone maturation. The seeds are wind dispersed, and usually fall within 150 meters of the parent tree, though they can travel for over a kilometer. Seed production varies by year, with a heavy crop every seven years or so. Trees 200-300 years old produce the most seeds.


Late Night Encounters

Spokane, WA Riverwalk

The rocks under the bridge resolve themselves into five furry faces,
Twitching noses under masked eyes.
A guy on a bike stops to warn me, “those things are mean.”
I assure him I won’t try to touch one, and he rides off.
The mamma raccoon waits patiently for her kits to get a noseful of human, then scuttles off into the bushes, followed by one, two, and three.
A good ten seconds later, the runt, half the size of its siblings,
looks up from where it was slubbing in the mud.
“They went that way,” I point.
After a second’s thought, it scuttles after them.
I am relieved to see one of the quicker siblings greet it at the edge of the thicket,
Licking its face and chivviyng it off into the darkness.

Reptillian Overthrow

Global warming is an alligator conspiracy.
The largest of them take jobs at wrestling venues throughout the South
And insist on heated pools and being paid in vast quantities of hamburger,
Leading directly to an increase in cow farts and emissions from coal-fired power plants.

They don’t understand the connection between arsenic released by mountaintop removal,
And deformed eggs.
Hatchlings born with fur, oversized brains, and glow-in-the-dark scales, usually get eaten,
But not always.

They eagerly await the promised expansion of their swampland territories brought on by rising sea levels.

The mosquitoes concur.

The cockroaches, who have been diligently evolving a greater resistance to the cold, calculate that their investments are well enough diversified to withstand a fifteen degree climate shift in either direction.
They are also developing aquatic options.

Only the mangroves, caught between deep water and new, nearshore expressways, are concerned.

But, who ever listens to a tree?

A Visit to the SAM Peru Exhibit

On Friday, M and I finally made it into town to see the Peru exhibit at SAM, the day before it closed. I wanted to see it partly because I spent a summer in Peru when I was eleven, and can still remember lots of the things I saw then. I was not disappointed. There were a few items in the exhibit, borrowed from the Museo de Oro in Lima, that I remembered seeing on our visit there. (If you ever get a chance, go. The upstairs is a collection of arms and armor from around the world. The downstairs is a house-sized walk in vault full of amazing golden objects.)

I thought the exhibit was well laid out – separate rooms for several pre-Inca cultures, then Inca Empire objects, followed by a room full of artwork from the Catholic sledgehammer of the Spanish invasion.

One of the paintings in the colonial period room was a depiction, by a native artist, of a Corpus Christi procession, one of the colonial answers to the traditional feast of Inti-Raymi, the return of the sun, which marks the (Southern hemisphere) winter solstice. In the center of the painting are several important-looking personages in the garb of Inca nobility.

My parents and I visited Cuzco about a week after the main Inti-Raymi celebrations, but the day we arrived, there was a procession from an outlying town, bringing their statue of the Virgin Mary to be blessed at the Cathedral.  The statue, more than life sized, was dressed in jewel-encrusted red velvet over many years worth of handmade lace.  She was supported on two beams, carried by a dozen(?) men, barefoot, and dressed in traditional campesino pants and ponchos.

The parade also included dancers, horsemen, floats, and clowns made up to look like conquistadors. The people seemed to have embraced the religion, without having forgotten the way it was brought.


M said he was disappointed that the exhibit didn’t have more history to it; that much of it was a display of ruling class burial practices.

That, and some architecture, is what has come down to us. The Incas, (also an empire full of disparate peoples), didn’t have a written language. The art of reading their knotted quipu ledgers has been lost. The Spanish did what they could to melt down and destroy the rest. If people hadn’t buried these amazing objects, they wouldn’t have survived. Insert your own comment about unexpected afterlives here.

Welcome to Janka’s Blog

Hi Everybody!
Happy Day-After-Solstice!
This being the bounce day in our wobble around the sun, it seems an auspicious time to start a new project. Also, it’s close enough to the new year for an attempt at improved habits, otherwise known as “Write More.”
In my usual scattered fashion, it should be a mix of observations, writing news, stories, and my monthly native plant column.
Wish me luck.