Monday, March 15, 2010

Pines Fall By the Hundreds at Mountain Lakes

The March 13 wind storm packed a one-two punch. Heavy rain softened the ground, then gusty winds swept through, creating a scene more like the aftermath of dozens of miniature tornadoes. Two pine tree plantations, one on county property near the Mountain Lakes House, the other at Community Park North, underwent a radical thinning, as trees fell like dominoes.

I counted roughly 100 trees down in this one patch alone near Mountain Lakes House. One activity I hope to do with my daughter is walk the length of one of these fallen pines, counting the whorls of branches. Each whorl equals one year. A rough count came to fifty years, which would put their planting around 1960.

The narrow grove of pines was particularly vulnerable, poised at the edge of this Tusculum meadow. The wind swept across this field and hit the trees with full force.

The damage is not all negative. Some fallen black locusts may prove useful for bridge building, since their wood is so rot resistant. The pine forest, though pleasing to walk through, was in many ways a sterile, artificial woods--trees planted in rows with nothing growing beneath them other than exotic garlic mustard and thousands of ash seedlings.

All the new openings in the woods throughout Princeton will power new growth at ground level, hopefully of native species that previously had few sunny places to grow.

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