2008-11-13

Maple; Rocky Mountain? Similar, at least...

OK, the unknown trees are a bit less unknown now.

While working with web resources and tree identification for the west coast is a chancy venture at best, the USDA NRCS Plants Database leads me to believe they are closely related to the Rocky Mountain Maple; the descriptions are very close, the photos, hmm, variant is a possibility.

First thing you have to realize is that, like people, no two trees are exactly alike; we tend to forget this given that most cultivated trees are actually grafted, where clippings from one tree are spliced onto another, not quite cloning but having something of that effect. This allows one tree, selected for desired characteristics, to seemingly multiply into many trees, kept alive and spread via grafting for decades beyond the normal lifespan of said tree, and leading many to presume that all examples of that species are identical, with no variation.

Not what we have here, this are from wild seed, and many trees, while having both male and female flowers, are not self-fertilizing; they require pollen from a slightly different tree to produce fertile seeds, so by definition they do not breed true. Thus, illustrations and photos of a given species of plant merely provide a basis for comparison, not a strict criteria which must be matched to the last crinkle of their leaves.

Given all of that, our volunteer trees look to be varietals of the Rocky Mountain Maple.

Not a variety noted for it's lumber usage, given that it doesn't have one main trunk but instead has several trunks splitting off near the ground, none reaching terribly large diameters. As a source for twig furniture materials it's not a bad one, especially as it regrows from stumps quite well, and is pleasant to work with, as I already know from making the new handle for the Japanese Root Cutting Knife mentioned several entries past, and the now-mentioned-for-the-first-time walking stick for Mom [hey, she forgot her cane inside, so I handed her a section I'd just trimmed, a little tall for her but it worked, I've since cleaned it up a bit and added it to the collection of canes in our possession]. Turns out this type of Maple has cross-hatched bark, not as deeply striated as Oak, but something of that look not on steroids, as it were. *grin*

And that's the news from SE Portland, Where Men Are Men, Women Are Women, and Trees Are Trees.

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