Monday, July 9, 2018

Tree Report, Road Report

Not far from my house, halfway down a dirt road to the Laramie River, a boxelder grows in a nook formed by warehouse walls. This is the tree I'm following this year. I visit it early each month and report on what I find at the monthly virtual gathering of tree-followers, kindly hosted by The Squirrelbasket.

Since my visit in June, there's been a lot of plant growth in general. On disturbed soil and old railroad ties along the dirt road, pioneering plants were glowing in the morning sun. It’s impressive where they can grow and flourish! We should appreciate their ability to provide ecosystem services where nothing else can, but too often they’re considered “just weeds.”
Scotch or Cotton Thistle
Nuttall's Evening Primrose—some would say it's not weedy because the flowers are so pretty.
Foxtail Barley
It's a good year for Yellow Sweetclover! (there's a dog in there somewhere)
Several native prairie grasses have become established here too, probably from the small prairie near the river.
Needle and Thread
Indian Ricegrass
Next we crossed the dirt parking lot (empty, as it was a weekend) to visit the boxelder in its protected nook. It’s thriving, and looks so different from the spindly little tree of winter! I suspect rain runs off the roof, and that this spot is more hospitable than it appears.
Then ...
... and now.
These days the boxelder is all about leaves. Their tiny green factories (chloroplasts) are furiously gathering sunlight and cranking out energy for growth and storage.
Compound leaves, weird for a maple (genus Acer); more on this next month.

The boxelder’s neighbors are thriving too. Along the base of the warehouse wall, “weeds” have been growing fast, determined to reproduce before the season ends.
Yellow Sweetclover with Canada Thistle on either side.
Tumble Mustard (pale yellow flowers) surrounded by Canada Thistle. Cheatgrass front center.
Dock’s beautiful red wings are brown, but it’s still photosynthesizing, storing energy in its rhizomes.

After visiting the boxelder, I checked on the new road under construction. I’ve been following it too, after getting hooked by the amazing Gomaco 6300, which extruded curb-and-gutter like a pastry bag extrudes cake decorations. There's been a lot of progress, most recently signal lights, stripes and road signs. Best of all, in the evenings after the work crew has left, and on weekends, we can walk across the new bridge!
Then (Gomaco 6300 on left) ...
... and now.
New stop sign waits in a patch of Common Kochia, one of our tumbleweeds. Kochia is extremely common along the new road, and I anticipate lots of tumbleweeds in my yard next spring.
Nearing the crest of the new bridge.
Decorative street lights are a nice touch.
View south from the crest.
The horizontal green line is the terribly inadequate old bridge, to be torn down soon. Good riddance!
The road is scheduled to open by the end of July. Then the pleasure of a quiet stroll high above the railroad tracks will come to an end. But I’m not complaining. There's a sidewalk and a bike path too, and it will be a blessing to finally have a safe route across the tracks to the east side of town.

Join us … all are welcome!


  1. That Evening Primrose is really pretty, as is the Indian Ricegrass...and the other wildflowers and plants. That Boxelder is amazing in its ability to thrive in those conditions. We were just talking about how we need to take out some Boxelders here, because they're crowding out our Oaks. Tough trees, for sure!

    1. Beth, I have it on good authority that boxelder is often a "weed" further east (and people don't like the boxelder bugs). But here it's uncommon. I've found no records for it in natural conditions in the Laramie Valley, and I haven't seen it in my walks along the river. It's occasional in the Laramie Range to the east. So I wonder how a boxelder seed ended up in that nook!? Too bad it can't talk ;)

  2. How wonderful is the habitat you have chosen!
    I particularly like the pretty grasses - and the foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) is very like our UK wild barley (Hordeum murinum), which children used to throw as darts that stick to your woolly clothes.
    The box elder leaves are so pretty - and I love that clean new road, too!
    All the best :)

    1. Thanks, Pat. I'm glad to hear you appreciate that habitat. It's probably obvious that I think pioneering plants don't get the credit they deserve.

  3. Your tree is looking really good! So pretty!
    Have a great week!

  4. There's a tension here . . . the more established the box elder gets, the higher and wider it grows, the more at risk its life gets. I suppose there will come a time when the owners of the land decide it's in the way. Little do they know people round the world are cheering it on!
    It must be a great experience to walk across such a fabulous new bridge before cars get to it. I'd love to do that.

    1. Ha! good point, Lucy. In fact, I have been hoping to meet one of the warehouse people and explain tree following. Folks around here almost always are quite friendly, and I can see someone being fascinated by my following the boxelder and hearing that "people round the world are "cheering it on" :)

      Bridge is open now. I was first sad to lose the peaceful stroll, but the convenience has made up for it.