Monday, November 25, 2013

Slow Growing Oaks #782: 6 inches of growth, but per year or per week?

A friend sent a link to this informational piece on swamp chestnut oak, Quercus michauxii.  Tons of great information about a very cool tree, and further proof that hunters are light years ahead of the landscape nursery industry in terms of planting trees that matter.

Two items in this piece caught my attention:

1) Swamp chestnut oak is allelopathic - it exudes chemicals that inhibit the growth of surrounding vegetation.  In Forestry 101 we are taught that black walnut is the Typhoid Mary of forest trees, exuding the dreaded juglone (good ol' 5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthalenedione or 5-hydroxynaphthoquinone) and killing everything in sight.  I had never heard of an oak being allelopathic, but the author's sources - and they are good ones - were probably this... and this

I have no reason to question this... other than that I always question everything regardless of how much more learned the source is than me.  It struck me that a) swamp chestnut oak is very closely related to (to the point of blurred and overlapping species lines - but you know my thoughts on that) several other oak "species," b) so if swamp chestnut oak is allelopathic other oaks must be as well.

Turns out they are, to varying degrees.  Along with just about every other tree in the forest.  So what have we learned today kids? Shockingly, trees use chemistry to gain a competitive advantage. 

2) Then there's this (and I'm not blaming the author - I'm sure this information came from another highly reputable source):  "Seedlings then grow fairly slowly at less than 6 inches per year."

Since we all know that the poet's conceit of oaks as the emblem of all that is slow but lasting, we therefore know that this must be a typo.

I'm sure what the author of the source of this little nugget meant to say was either a) "Seedlings then grow extremely rapidly at more than 6 inches per week." Or perhaps, b) "Seedlings then grow mind-blowingly fast at 6 squared inches per year."  (Sorry, I don't know how to do a superscript 2 in blogger and I'm not about to learn just to make a point.)

Six inches per week during the height of the growing season?  No problem.  36 inches of growth per year?  Child's play.

Don't believe me?  Watch this.  Brought to you by Dudley Phelps of Mossy Oak's Nativ Nurseries, aka The Wizard of West Point MS.  I told you hunters know more about growing trees than the whole landscape tree industry put together.

Slow growing oaks my heinie.