Iconic Trees

Sentinel After the Storm: This sequoia stands at the entrance of Kings Canyon, and always reminds me of just how impressive these trees are when comparing them to the ubiquitous pines and firs. Getting to the park before the sun could melt the snow off the branches of the trees gives the distinct mood of winter. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Leaves on the Dance Floor: Aspen trunk scarring where defunct branches fall off is fascinating, but the trunks of these trees were twisted in a way that I hadn’t seen much of before. This group was at the edge of a stand, and my guess is that these aspen were subject to avalanches when they were saplings. The leaves that adorned the ground around these trees gave me the irresistible image of the trees dancing their leaves off until winter. —Inyo National Forest, California

Summoning Pollinators to the Forest: The rhododendrons bloom in a counter intuitive fashion. The trees at higher elevations bloom before the lower elevation areas. This swath of rhododendrons in full bloom below the giants shrouded in fog show the redwood forest at its colorful best.–Del Norte Redwoods State Park, California

Wishbone: When I woke up on Telescope Peak the winds had died down, which made walking along the ridge much easier. The sunrise was quite hazy, but the golden light reached this snag and made it glow. Also figuring prominently is the shadow of Telescope Peak on the Argus Mountains.–Death Valley National Park, California

Ancient: The Bristlecone Pine survives in one of the harshest environments on earth with nutrient poor dolomite soil, very little precipitation, and high winds during cold winters. As a result they grow very slowly and live for thousands of years. This tree is an excellent example of limb sacrifice where much of the tree dies and a small section produces all the necessary energy for continued survival. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Aspen Curve: Aspens are synonymous with Colorado, but the Eastern Sierra has large sections of high altitude aspens that turn a beautiful bright yellow during autumn. The rich white trunks invite you through the pathway. —Eastern Sierra, California

Bristlecones Watch Death Valley: This cloud caught my eye. It seems to be several lenticular clouds stacked on top of one another, but didn’t quite have the correct wind conditions to become a Sierra Wave cloud. It has the appearance of an abalone (to me anyway) and lit up a bright pink at the tail end of sunset on Telescope Peak. The twin bristlecone pine reaches out to the salt flats that remain after Lake Manly evaporated. —Death Valley National Park, California

Oak Savanna Lunar Eclipse: I have had an idea for the lunar eclipse to go alongside the silhouette of an oak tree for some time, but achieving this has taken many false starts. Fortunately total lunar eclipses are much more frequent and path of totality is quite wide, so I have had many chances. In order for this to work well, totality must reached shortly after sunset or shortly before sunrise so the moon is low enough to be capture it with the horizon. This is quintessential California with oak savanna with the eclipsed moon filling out the empty space in this trees shape. —Palo Alto, California

Autumn Black Oak: The black oaks that grow in El Capitan Meadow are surrounded by some of the largest monoliths of granite in the world. This handsome oak fit in perfectly between Middle and Lower Cathedral Rocks. —Yosemite Valley, California

Born From Stone: Despite its small size, this bristlecone pine snag lived a long life. Up on a ridge where conditions are harshest, the slow growth allows it to produce incredibly hard resinous wood that is all but immune to insects and fungus. The dolomite stone it’s resting on is the product of deposits of sea animal shells when the white mountains were below sea level hundreds of millions of years ago. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Bright Colors Under the Canopy: The rich greens of the rhododendron contrast beautifully with the pink blooms produced in the shadows of the tallest trees in the world. The leaning tree is still in good standing because it compensated for its new angle by adding all new growth to the high side in order to balance the force of gravity. —Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, California

Dressed in Snow and Starlight: This red fir captured my attention as it towered above nearby compatriots with a healthy layer of snow adorning its branches. Few things give a stronger feeling of winter than a snow covered evergreen. A descending gibbous moon lit its branches to help it stand out against the star field. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Climbing a Giant: A sliver of filtered light managed to hit this poison oak vine climbing a coastal redwood. This reduces the amount of competition it needs for light. It will never beat the redwood tree for height, but it managed to make it easily above the ferns. —Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve, California

Giant Sequoias and Virginal Snow: We’ve been looking for fresh snow and Sequoias for some time, and a storm was projected to clear shortly before sunrise. Since this lined up well with the weekend, we left at 12:30am to arrive at Kings Canyon before dawn. We had the Grant Grove all to ourselves, so we took our snowshoes into the fresh powder and saw the cinnamon colored bark of the sequoias against the blueish-white snow. The matchstick looking tree in the middle is a sizable fir tree, but it is dwarfed by these siblings. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Flowering Accent: Fog can do a lot to simplify a scene in a dense redwood forest by softening background trees and branches, and gives an ethereal look. This rhododendron was a late bloomer, but it provided a welcome contrast to the rich greens of the undergrowth. —Del Norte Redwood State Park, California

Marine Heart: The dolomite rocks and soil in the White Mountains of eastern California originated from the calcium deposits from ancient shelled marine organisms. This Bristlecone Pine’s roots moved around harder stones more than a thousand years ago. Since then erosion has uncovered the roots to expose the roots and stones. The twisted roots are reminiscent of sandstone slot canyons of the southwest. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Millions of Sunsets: This ancient snag stands out from the crowd of other bristlecones because of its extreme age. It has been standing dead for many years and will only fall when erosion completely exposes its once buried roots. This can come from thousands of years from natural erosion, or erosion caused by photographers breaking the rules to get a unique composition. This vivid sunset with the Sierra crest in the background was spectacular, but this snag has seen millions of sunsets during its existence. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Spring Oak: As the sun rose behind this lone oak, the dew began to evaporate and catch the low sun light. The emerald green hills of Oak Savanna is usually a brief time during the rainy season, and was especially refreshing in the middle of the three year drought. —Arastradero Preserve, California

Standing on the Shoulders of Greater Trees: A rare albino redwood cannot produce chlorophyll, so its needles are a waxy white color. Albino trees are rare because they must graft onto another tree to obtain energy since it cannot photosynthesize. Grafting is very common for redwoods, so this tree is in luck. Continued research of these spectacular specimens has shown that albino redwoods are not parasites, but aid their hosts by taking in toxic metals to improve the health of their host. —Humboldt Redwood State Park, California

Bristlecones Watch Death Valley: A grove of Great Basin Bristlecone Pines grows on the slopes of Telescope Peak in Death Valley. The lack of water requires carrying all you need to sleep on the peak, but the temperature was a pleasant 70 degrees instead of the 110 degrees at the lower elevations. Clouds were swirling so the sun sent anti-crepuscular rays across Death Valley and dappled light to the Amargosa Range. The Bristlecones stand watch on the slopes of Telescope Peak itself with their weathered and wind blown branches.–Death Valley National Park, California

Time Passes Over the Snag Garden: Though these bristlecones are small, they were many hundreds if not thousands of years old. Fast moving clouds stream overhead and give some measure of the passage of time witnessed by these trees. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Verdant Pathway: Fog is the life blood of Redwoods. The high branches of the redwood can cause the fog to condense and quite literally make it rain in order to quench their thirst. This provides benefits for plants in the undergrowth as well, and makes for vibrant greens. The pathway invites you forward to continue exploring this iconic old growth forest. —Del Norte Redwood State Park, California

Layers of Different Ages: The white dolomite soil of the White Mountains lack nutrients, so the few trees that do manage to eke out a living in it are almost exclusively Bristlecone Pines. No other trees can compete in such poor growing conditions. Even with their extreme age, the mountains are hundreds of millions of years old, and the moon is billions of years old. However, the transient clouds lit up by the setting sun are mere hours old. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Moonlit Clouds Highlight Ancient Branches: This well known ancient Bristlecone snag has a younger living companion nearby, and they fit together like puzzle pieces from this perspective. Thick clouds obscured the stars, but the nearly full moon lit up the clouds to surround the branches of the ancients. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Long-lived in High Winds: The harsh winters in the White Mountains are filled with limited snowfall and vicious wind gusts. This abstract of a Bristlecone at sunrise has the appearance of hard marble reflecting the density of the wood. The motion gives an indicator of the kind of winds that rip through its branches. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Coastal Redwoods and Big Leaf Maple: The Big leaf maples can coexist with redwood trees because their broad leaves capture enough light to eke out a living. The indirect light shows as a bright vivid green that stands out in the dark of the redwood canopy. —Muir Woods National Monument, California