Nature Notes

Volume IV No. 2 - August, 1931

How To Know The Pines
By Lincoln Constance

We are fortunate at Crater Lake National Park in having a very representative collection of coniferous (cone-bearing) trees: pines, hemlocks, spruces, and firs. Most of the park area, except for the pumice flats, and exposed rock masses, is covered by these evergreens, which clothe the barren slopes of ash and lava with a perpetual mantle of pleasing verdure. Even such cinder cones as Wizard Island and Timber Crater are ornamented with forests.

The pines are not only easy to tell from all other trees, -- they are our only conifers which bear their needles in cluster -- but are readily distinguishable one from another. In addition, they are fairly well segregated as to altitude, and serve as "Zone Indicators". We find that plant and animal life varies with the altitude, and that in ascending a mountain we pass through definite layers of living things, termed "Life Zones". Some plants and animals are limited to a definite band, and occur almost universally throughout it. By learning to know a few such forms, we can easily tell which zone we are in, and know what sort of life we may expect to see there.

The zones of altitude correspond with geographical zones, or zones of latitude, and are named for the latter, so we have the Arctic-Alpine, the Hudsonian, the Canadian, the Transition, the Sonoran Life Zone, et cetera. The further south we go, the higher we must climb to reach a given layer. At our latitude, the Hudsonian Zone is found from about six thousand feet to higher levels of the Park (less than nine thousand feet); the Canadian, from six thousand to five thousand; and the remaining area, five to four thousand feet, lies in the Dry or Arid Transition Zone. We find that the five varieties of pine native to the Park are well-distributed through these three zones.

Our pines may conveniently be divided into two groups -- the white pines, and the yellow pines. The first class is characterized by bearing its needles in groups of five, and possessing a gray or whitish bark, which is either smooth or furrowed. The White-Bark Pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.) is the only pine found in our Hudsonian Zone. It is the common tree about the South Rim, on Cloud Cap, Garfield Peak, Scott Peak, Llao Rock and elsewhere. Growing at such a high elevation, and exposed to severe weather conditions, it is usually twisted and bent, so that its wood is of no commercial value. The cones of this tree are three inches or less in length, and oval to ovoid in shape.

white pine cone and needles

In the adjacent zone, the Canadian, we find the Western White Pine (Pinus monticola Don.). This tree is common on Wizard Island, and upon the Inner Rim of the Lake. It is usually tall and straight, reaching a considerable height. The needles occur in fives, but are somewhat longer than those of the preceding tree, and do not clothe the branches so densely. The cones are six to eight inches long, and narrowly cylindrical. The White Pine produces a fine-grained white wood, which is chiefly valuable as a substitute for the Sugar Pine.

The king of the White Pines -- the Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana Dougl.) -- is an immense tree, which unfortunately, occurs but rarely in the park, and then only in the lower reaches of the Transition Zone. The needles -- again in fives -- are rather long, and the huge cones, thirteen to eighteen inches long, immediately distinguish it from all its lesser relatives. While very scarce in Oregon, the Sugar Pine is one of the most valuable timber trees of California, where ninety-eight per cent of that variety is manufactured. The wood is white, soft and straight-grained, and is often used for interior finish.

Western yellow pine cone and needles

While passing through the lower areas of the Park, you may see a pine whose trunk resembles a stately bronze column. The coppery bark is usually broken up into rectangular patches, which scale off easily. This is the Western Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl.), the only tree in the park which bears its needles in groups of three. Like the Sugar Pine, it occurs only in the Transition Zone, and serves as an indicator throughout the Cascades and Sierra Nevada. The cones are three to five inches long, oval to globular, and beset with prickly points. Although it produces a soft, somewhat resinous wood, it is very highly regarded as a source of cheap lumber.

The Lodge-pole Pine (Pinus contorta Dougl. var. marrayana Englem.) is a slender tree, growing in dense stands throughout the Canadian Zone, as about Park Headquarters. It has a thin, dark-colored, smoothish bark, which is easily penetrable, and as a result the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus monticola Hopk.) makes it chief ravages against this species. The "Ghost" of "Silver Forests" towards Diamond Lake are largely stands of the Lodge-pole Pine, which have fallen a prey to this vicious pest. The cones are small, oval and prickly, and the needles are borne if fascicles of two. The low, twisted Beach Pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.), found only at sea level, is frequently considered to be a low altitude form of the Lodge-pole, but the great variance in general aspect make it seem quite likely that the two should be regarded as distinct species. For some reason, the Lodge-pole Pine locally passes under the name of "Tamarack", but this is entirely erroneous, for it has no close relationship with the true, Swamp-growing, deciduous Tamarack (Larix species) of the Eastern United States.

"By the needles ye shall know them!" might be our watchword in telling the pines apart. The number of leaves in a cluster, the size and shape of the cones, the color of the bark, and the altitude at which the trees grow give us a series of clues to their identity. After you have examined the cones and needles of each a few times, the general shape, size, and aspect of the trees will enable you to recognize the five types, as you merely drive through the forests.

The Rim Canyon
By D. S. Libbey

This year there has been added to the guide trips of the Naturalist Service a conducted caravan tour around the Rim Road which encircles Crater Lake. Each morning the visitors wishing to take the caravan tour assemble at 8:30 around the parapet of the Sinnott Memorial Building, where a member of the Naturalist Staff explains the points of interest around the Lake. Then the visitors go up to the highway and take their machines for the drive.

From eight to ten stops are made on the tour, with the Naturalist in charge taking the party to study the features in place, with the various phenomena of the Rim region constituting a marvelous practical laboratory. The natural features around the Rim Drive portray a manifold works of "The Master Teacher - Nature" and the exhibits in-situ constitute "The Supreme Text Book."

Stops on the caravan tour are made as a rule at the following places: the South Base of Hillman Peak, affording a marvelous view of Wizard Island and the narrows of Skell's Channel; the north base of Hillman in which the marvelous panorama of Mt. Bailey, Diamond Lake, Diamond Peak, Red Cone, Pumice Desert and Mt. Thielsen are spread out in remarkable clarity. The tremendous dike, the Devils' Backbone is visited and the more venturesome in each party get the exquisite thrill of leaning over the very crest and looking down upon the lake. The glacial polish, chatter mark and striae, showing us the sculpturing action the work ice played in developing the present configuration of the rim slopes are visited. The stop at the North Entrance Ranger Station offers an opportunity to observe the contact of the lava flow of Llao Rock and its base, a glacial valley. The splendid portrayal of vegetative life zones is well shown at many places on the drive, particularly around the base of Llao Rock and on the way to Mazama Rock, where fractured surfaces show shearing and slicken-slide activity.

The caravan does not stop at Pumice Point, Palisade Point or the Wine Glass but the visitors have the opportunity of splendid views of the lake surface and Rim Area from these places as they drive along.

Skell Head affords a marvelous view, one that is equally entrancing regardless as to whether the time is early in the morning with oblique rays to the observers back, midday with marvelous reflections appearing around the north side of the Rim, or late in the afternoon with the beautiful colors of a receding sun tinting the panorama. Cloud Cap is another point of vantage for the caravan to pause and there get the first vivid pictures of the Phantom Ship. Probably the most impressive view of the entire tour is obtained by those who make the climb down to Sentinel Point. The Red Castle Formation, along the side of Cloud Cap with its turreted forms of variegated colors, are visible as well as the Phantom Ship, Dutton Cliff, Applegate and Garfield Peaks as well as Kerr and Sun Notches.

The last stop on the caravan tour at Kerr Notch affords the intriguing view of "The Ship" and then the group proceeds at their own leisure.

Wizard Island Exploration
By D. S. Libbey

This season we have inaugurated a visitation to Wizard Island under the guidance of a Naturalist. The Cinder Cone is ascended, the crater explored and then, after the descent, the party goes out over a new trail on the rugged cinder slope and when the trail is extended a visit to the fascinating Witch's Pool will be made. The visitors making the trip to Wizard Island also make connections with the last boat in the afternoon which reverses the normal course and picks up the ones who have explored the island to take them through Skell's Channel, close to the base of the Devil's Backbone, and across the center of the lake to the Phantom Ship.

The guide trips of previous years, the Rim Walk and the Garfield Hike are also being enjoyed by many.

<<< Previous
> Cover <