With the Pines

Hello Pines, both of you, pleased to meet you. It's the 9th of January 2024. The cold, really cold weather has changed into plus degrees, so the snow in your crown is melting and dripping on me here when I sit on this bolder. There is a sign on the other side of the bolder that it's brought here from the area around Viborg by the ice during the ice age. Well, the area of Viborg was not the aerea of  Viborg by then, but anyway it comes from the east, and is very ancient. But you, if we think of you as a family, are much much more ancient than that. You came here at the time of the dinosaurs, or even before. I decided - well I hope you don't mind, but - I decided I needed to study a little bit more about pine trees, to know more about pine trees, and what best way to do that to do it together with you. Since I met some of the other pine trees in the same park I decided I need to read a little bit also, so I found a book. And the other pines here in the park, they have their own specific character, but I guess most people walking by here would think of you as the real landmark, because you grow here, the two of you, on the... near the road and near the shore. So you're sort of easily recognisable. There are a lot of people walking and also skiing now in the park even though it's wet but never mind. So back to the book. I found a book by, written or compiled by, a huge book, by somebody called David Richardson, and it's called The Ecology and Biogeography of Pinus. So there is a lot of information of all kinds and I began by reading the introduction, or part of the introduction and I'm going to, yeah. And that's where I learned that you are a part of the so-called gymnosperms and not the angiosperms like most plants or flowers and so on, and that you're very ancient. And yes, so maybe I should quote the text so I don't invent something. So yes, when the earliest angiosperms were appearing in the early Cretaceous, that's 120 million years ago, you were already here. So gymnosperms arose much earlier in the middle Devonian, 365 million years ago. And I quote: "Evidence from fossilised cones shows that ancestors of Pinaceae", that's your family however that's pronounced "had evolved by the Mid Jurassic and that Pinus", your kind " had evolved by the lower Cretaceous." So you really, your ancestors really are ancient. No wonder that you're so strong. So now I quote further: "By the end of the Mesozoic, pines had diversified into two major groups, or subgenera; representatives of both subgenera, Strobus (... or soft pines, with one fibrovascular bundle in the needle) and Pinus", that is your kind "(... or hard pines with two fibrovascular bundles in the needle), survive today." So I understand you're probably part of this second branch of the family. But where did I find, there was... There was a beautiful passage describing why it is that you are so strong and have survived so long and are so widespread around the world, especially in the northern hemisphere. So now I quote: "Among the factors that have contributed to the rapid migration and population increases of pines in the Holocene are: their abundant output of seeds from an early age; their ability to recruit dense daughter stands on exposed sites soon after disturbance; effective mechanisms for long-distance seed dispersal; a mating system that permits inbreeding and selfing in isolated trees; and various life-history traits that confer resilience at the population level under a wide range of disturbance regimes; and the ability to colonize nutrient-poor sites." So yes, that I've noticed when I've met other pines elsewhere that you really thrive there were nobody else wants to live, tree-wise I mean. And you can take both damp and dry conditions as long as there is light. Yeah, but my purpose is not to preach to you or just to read aloud stuff, but I would like to somehow have some sort of support or refutal or confirmation of this knowledge. I understand that you can't know by heart everything that happened to your distant ancestors, but I hope you could somehow inform me, if you agree with this knowledge or not, or if it's relevant at all. Or yes, why, if it's relevant for you, I wonder, does it make a difference if your ancestors are ancient or not. But on the other hand, if we think of the genetic legacy as some sort of accumulated knowledge over millennia and so on, then you must be really really wise. I don't know what else I could, what can I expect from you except tolerance and patience with me. Even though you might not be able to teach me directly or engage in this conversation, literally through language or even comment on the text I read to you, somehow I think it makes sense to learn about you together with you. So thank you for this new start at the beginning of the New Year and see you soon again. Take care.

Hello Pines, it's a while, more than a month since I was here. I spoke with you in January. Now I will try to continue my pine studies with you again. I looked a little bit on the next section in the book by Richardson, about the whole species Pinus, and one small section of the introduction is called Morphological traits of pines. And of course that's about beginning with the growth form and size and size, and then also there the whole-tree longevity, so how long the pine trees live. And that's of course always interesting. So I quote here, from page ten onwards: "Pines, like many other conifers, have the characteristics of monopodial growth and large size. The largest species of pines in the world are centred in distribution in California and the Pacific Northwest of the USA." End of quote. So monopodial, I suppose means like having one trunk. That's why we in Finland grow so many pines too. Of course the pines a part of the natural flora here, but they also are a staple of the forestry industry. But anyway, I quote from Richardson, again: "The largest species of pine in both height and girth is Pinus lambertiana, which reaches over 75 m in height and more than 5 meters in diameter in the Sierra Nevada of California." End of quote. There are other big  pines, too, but those are the very biggest. That's absolutely amazing. Then about the longevity of pines. I quote: "Many pines are very long-lived, and the two bristlecone pines, Pinus aristata and Pinus longaeva are the oldest living organisms in the world" - well, that's what they claim at least in this book, alright that was a side remark from the quote, I continue quoting: "with the latter reaching documented ages of nearly 5000 years (according to Currey in 1968). The oldest living Pinus aristata was aged to 2435 years (by Brunstein & Yamaguchi in 1992). And NOoden (in 1988) lists two other pine species, Pinus cembra, which is about 1200 years and Pinus sylvestris 500 years. That's our common pine here in the north. And Nooden lists them as among the longest-lived plants in the world, but several other pines could also make this list, claims Richardson. And of course this made me interested in looking up what is the oldest pine in Finland. And they have found one almost by accident in the very north-east in the Urho Kekkonen National Park. And the pine at the time of measuring it or taking, making a hole and looking at that tree rings, they counted it's age to 764, so that's quite amazing. And what I think is most amazing is that it didn't look so very old. It was not exceptionally big or, but it was growing in the far north in harsh circumstances and the tree rings where minute, very very very small. And that's good to remember that the tallest pines are not always the oldest ones. I also looked for the tallest pine and then tall you can mean either by height or then bye girth, and sort of the fattest, the broadest trunk of a pine they had found quite nearby, 120 km or so from here, in a place called Pikku Parola, in today part of Hämeenlinna city. And it's actually quite near my childhood summer house in Kalvola, which is also now part of Hämeenlinna, so I should go and try to find it sometimes. And it was like 4 m and something, almost 5 m around the 'waist'. But back to the book. One more thing is interesting, and that's  the role that Pine trees have played in the dendrochronology, that is, counting the tree rings and understanding, for instance, climate change through changes in the tree trunks. And I quote: "Pines have played a fundamental role in the development of the modern science of dendrochronology, beginning with the pioneering work of Andrew Douglas, in the American Southwest. Douglas, who was an astronomer became director of the Lowell Astronomical Observatory in Flagstaff in Arizona in 1894. And with research interest in sunspot activity and possible related impacts on climate, Douglas was drawn to the possibility that tree rings might contain climatic records that would not otherwise be available from existing weather stations. Working with the Pinus ponderosa in the Flagstaff area, Douglas developed the concept of cross-dating to compare and extend these tree ring measures over broad regional areas to identify year-to-year variation in climate. It was this pine research that led him to establish the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research at the University of Arizona in 1906." End of quote. Then one more quote, so I quote: "Although the field of dendrochronology has expanded greatly in scope and depth since these early studies and involves work with many tree genera throughout the world, research with pines still forms the heart of this field. Pines contain the longest single chronologies available and some of the most sensitive chronologies for evaluating regional patterns of climate." And the reference here is Brunstein 1996. End of quote. So this is actually fascinating to think of that especially pine trees are important for this tree research. I always used to think that you had to cut down a tree and then count the tree rings, but luckily you don't have to do that but you can sort of stick in, like in the same way that they do with ice, actually thousands of metres, hundred of metres down in the ice in the Antarctic. You can sort of take a small slice of the whole tree trunk, and obviously that doesn't damage the pine tree too much. Anyway, I wouldn't like that. It sounds like a visit to a dentist or something, but of course it's interesting to think that pine trees can help us sort out climate change. But now it can be measured so obviously, because the climate has changed so drastically during the recent years that we don't need tree ring evidence for that, because there are measurements already. But nevertheless, I think it's nice to think of pines as our allies, not only with storing carbon, taking it away from the atmosphere, but also in the early days in finding out about the changes. But now when I look at you here, I realise I don't understand how old you are, because in some sense you look, well, as in your best years, vigorous and healthy and thriving, so it's very difficult to think that you would be very old. But there's actually in some of the text that old pine trees have their crown sort of bent downwards so they become like rounded almost like mushrooms. And there is a little bit of that turning at least in you, the one of the two of you that is nearest to me. But then again the one that is further away, although it looks like it's thinner, it has a bark that characterises old pines, shield bark, which is found on pines that are in the minimum of a certain age, which I have forgotten, which I have to read again. Yeah so this is sort of basic. No news for you, of course. But maybe you can be proud of thinking that the very oldest plants on this planet actually are your relatives. Well, thanks for this lesson with you again, and I hope you have a nice rest of the February and see you again in March. Thank you.