• Gloria Putnam

Bobcat Fire Burn Scar Update: 372 Days Post-Fire

A magical resprouting piñon pine tree and the intelligence of the forest.




In the few remaining strips of piñon pines on the ranch it was a good year for nut production. Since such a small percentage of our trees survived the fire, we didn't take a harvest, leaving this year's gifts for our wild forest mates who can't live on goat milk instead. The cones open on the tree and the seeds are taken and cached by jays before they drop to the ground. The cones that have fallen are still green-tipped, sap laced, and fragrant. You can see there are a couple of seeds remaining in the cone pictured above. Those seeds are no good. I know this the same way that the jays and squirrels know it: the color of the shell is too light. Everyone knows those nuts aren't worth extracting, because their shells are empty.



There are very few changes in the burn scar as summer transitions into fall and we mark the passing of the 1 year anniversary of the fire. But I did notice something remarkable this week. On an edge of the burned area is a piñon pine whose trunk is half burned. This tree burned but not completely. Most of the needles were burned off and those that hung on were brown. For the last year, the tree has appeared completely dead. But it's not.



Piñon pines send out fresh tips in the fall. And this tree managed to hang on long enough to muster it's fresh-tip-energy to sprout new green where there hasn't been any since the fire. On the least burned side of the tree, fresh needles have appeared all over the branches. This tree is in the "outer family" of Big Mamma and I have no doubt that it is because of her support that this tree survived, and that the energy which made this resprouting possible came from her photosynthetic work, since for a whole year this tree has been unable to do any such work of her own.



How did Big Mamma know that this tree had a chance and was worth trying to save? Did she also try to save others on the perimeter without success? I wish I could ask her.



Once I noticed this tree, I walked the perimeter of the burn scar that literally surrounds Big Mamma and her family in every direction, looking for other examples. I found only one, a very young tree (maybe 30 years old) directly adjacent and only about 3 feet away. This little tree likely has a close fungal connection to the resprouting tree and has benefitted from the love sent in her direction.



And here is Big Mamma, responsible for this magic, and looking pretty good after our long, dry summer. Unlike the younger trees that surround her, she didn't make many cones this year. Perhaps saving her energy for the more meaningful productivity of listening to and helping others.

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