Category Archives: Fire

Juniper stump dates to 1608!

1/19/2010 Jim E. forwarded an email from Laurie Huckaby, tree-ring and fire-history specialist from with the USDA Forest Service’s Research Center in Fort Collins. Laurie wrote about the analysis of a charred juniper stump collected within a GVM greenbelt. Laurie said: “I did manage to date the section that we cut from that stump that John [Popp, Forestry Technician, USDA Forest Service] pulled up last summer. It was a Rocky Mountain juniper, and the pith date was 1608 AD. Not the oldest juniper I’ve found in the area, but definitely one of the older ones. The outside date was 1854, and I think that was pretty close to the death date. Juniper tends to burn up in fires and not make scars, but this one actually had scars from fires in 1685, 1696, and 1735. All of those were widespread fire years in the area.”

GVM area fire history updates

Jim Erdman forwarded an email exchange he had with Laurie Huckaby (USFS specialist in the fire history of this region — her passion, tree rings)
On 11/02/2009 Laurie wrote: “The last widespread fire in the Kelly Flats area was actually in the fall of 1871….I pick up the 1871 fire date in Young’s Gulch as well. There was a more localized event in 1880, a date that shows up at Gateway Park, too. The important thing to note about the historical fire regime is that although you could say there was a fire in any given location every 30 to 60 years, many of those fires were very localized, and fire frequency and intensity were not consistent through time. The late 1700s-early 1800s were a cold, wet period with reduced fire frequency; the mid-1800s were warm and dry, with more frequent fire that coincided with the settlement of this area. Direct fire suppression was not all that effective in your area [GVM] until the 1940s and 1950s, but heavy grazing in the late 1800s-early 1900s effectively stopped fire spread during that period. As for the oldest ponderosa pines, there are several living ones that date into the 1300s not too far from you. There is one on the Shambala Mountain Center property (near Red Feather Lakes)  that dates to 1321, and one on the north rim at Pingree Hill that dates to 1336. Go to Peter Brown’s OLDLIST website  to see a list of old trees submitted by tree-ring scientists. I finally got a chance to cut that stump John [Popp] and I collected. It is a Rocky Mountain Juniper! I didn’t expect that. It has no fire scars but lots of rings. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to date it in the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know when I do.”

11/2/2009 Part of Jim Erdman’s email response: “…Dating that juniper in what you’d called “a pretty interesting place” — the Mount Peale green belt — may help with that charred ponderosa stump nearby. I cored a close-by, very young ponderosa established since the burn, and you dated the pith at only 1930! The site by Iron Mountain Drive lies in a very mesic spot where I’m sure snow accumulates.”

Sept Flowers, Tree History featured on Nature Walk

9/7/2009 Jim E. led a nature walk in the Forest Service inholding at Haystack Dr with Andre, Ellen, Judy, Karen D., Mary, Warren & Wynne on a partly sunny September afternoon. We started with an overview by Jim’s truck with a poster that included a table entitled “The World’s Oldest Known Trees,” and displays of annual sunflower, valerian root, and fetid marigold. Jim passed around the valerian root (the plant is called edible valerian or tobacco root) for us to smell and he read about its medicinal uses

Trees:  Jim showed the trees that he identified for Laurie Huckaby and John Popp, of the U.S. Forest Service,  as potentially very old trees from the 1500s. He pointed out these old trees may have survived due to protection by surrounding rocks.

10/16/09 Jim emailed additional information: “During the May 20th outing with Laurie Huckaby, the local USFS’s key researcher on the fire history of this northern region, she said the few old meadow trees belonged to that ~1500 A.D. cohort, a period of ample moisture. Indeed, she’d cored a large ponderosa in that cluster, untouched by beetles. The pith date: 1575, with her estimated real age of 1535. Yet she’s found 700-800 year-old ponderosas up in the Red Mountain area to the north. Roughly 200-year intervals occur between cohorts, established during off-year drought cycles. The oldest known ponderosa — 880-890 — was found in Utah. That, based on a table, ‘The World’s Oldest Known Trees’ in a USGS/USFS poster (no date), Colorado’s Ancient Trees.”

Mountain Pine beetle: We saw several pine beetle-infested trees that had been cut down within a cluster of infested trees. The wood was then stacked and wrapped in plastic by the U.S. Forest service.

Flowers: yarrow, blanket flower, gumweed, black-eyed susan, smooth white aster or Porter aster, valerian, yellow owl-clover, yellow sweet-clover, bottle gentian, tansy aster, golden aster,

Grasses: squirreltail, shortawn foxtail, June-grass, timothy.

GVM Nature Walk Nov 1,2008

Jim Erdman led an informative nature walk November 1, 2008, from 9-11am. We met at his house for an introduction to Colorado forest history. Jim set up a demonstration in his driveway, cleverly using his truck as a prop: the side door was used to display a poster on Colorado’s oldest trees and the truck bed held a dissecting scope, tree-ring cores, and trunk cross sections. Next we then set off on a hike to look at several sites Jim had selected. See photos below. Thanks Jim!