Lathrop’s Evergreens: A Home, A Banquet, A Christmas Delight

by Barbara Walvoord

It’s the season when Christians go out and cut down evergreen trees and bring them into their homes. But for many of Lathrop’s creatures, evergreen trees ARE their homes, as well as their banquet tables.

The most prominent evergreen in our Lathrop woods is the native Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), Pictured above is the largest white pine we have found on Lathrop east campus. It lies across Bassett Brook.

The white pine is often grown for Christmas trees but has many other roles in our forests.The holes in a pine tree’s trunk can be home to woodpeckers, squirrels, and chickadees. Grey squirrels build nests deep within the top limbs. White tailed deer bed down together under the wide branches at the base of ancient evergreens in stormy weather. All kinds of birds taken shelter in the branches.

Pines are not only homes but banquets. Young pines are a meal for white-tailed deer and cottontails. The bark is a chewy snack for rabbits, porcupines, and beaver. The needles and seeds nourish chipmunks, voles, and mice. Seeds also feed many birds, such as chickadee and nuthatch. 277 insects eat white pine and are themselves then eaten by birds and other creatures.

White pines can grow to 100 feet tall and live 400 years. Dead lower branches are normal. Branches generally live about 15-25 years, then die, but remain on the tree for some time. To see one of our biggest white pines on the east campus, start at the blue shed, walk into the woods, and, when you come to the second red flag on the left hand side, look into the woods a few yards to find this tree. Based on its 11-foot circumference, an online calculator for white pine puts its age at about 235 years. To find an even bigger white pine, walk further until you come to the meadow. Cross it, and go down to the far right hand corner of the meadow. Enter the woods there, and go straight to the edge of the brook. On the far side of the brook, you will see this magnificent tree.

The white pine’s name means “tree of peace” in the language of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois nation). Our beautiful white pines at Lathrop bring peace to our hearts, as well as food and shelter to the creatures who share our land. http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/pinus/strobus.htm. http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/eastern_white_pine.htm

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