Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bachelorhood Day Three, treading water

The New Madrid (Missouri) strain offers stunning maroon tones on its new flushes of growth.  Image from HERE

I transplanted three Nuttall Oak seedings before I got rained out.  It seems like a very small thing to blog about.  But I guess that I would be doing well if I successfully transplanted three trees a day.  It won't seem like a small thing in twenty years.

Image from Wikipedia
The native range of Nuttall Oak comes no closer to Michigan than southern Missouri but it is reputed to be winter hardy here.  Landscaping for Wildlife aficionados value it for its ability to grow in very wet places and because it holds its acorns well into winter.  Imagine high calorie acorns falling on top of 10 inches of crusty, frozen snow rather than being frozen beneath it.

Botany has been afflicted with lumpers-and-splitters. So far the splitters are winning.

The lumpers want to disregard minor shape differences and have fewer species.  Splitters (who have the honor of naming newly found species) want to use small differences as the basis for defining new species.  A splitter would add 184 new species of canines were he to go to a dog show.

To my way of thinking, Nuttall Oak is one of a vast swarm of "Red" oaks.  Oaks are a promiscuous lot and interbreed with abandon.  Dan Morrical, a livestock extension specialist from Iowa, once told me that one of the beauty of interbreeding (or outbreeding) is that it shows the greatest effect on those traits that have the lowest "heritability".  Specifically, outbreeding is a solid way to get that tough-to-define characteristic called "livability".   High growth rate is important...but the animal has to live long enough to walk onto the trailer before you get paid by the auctioneer.  And then that animal has to thrive on the feedlot if you hope for repeat customers.  Sissies need not apply.

In plants, "livability" often comes down to "plasticity", the ability to adapt to or recover from environmental stresses like high pH soil, acid rain, browsing by animals, recovery from winter damage, flooding...... Trees do not have the luxury of changing their address.  A heterogeneous swarm of seedlings are likely to have plasticity within each individual as well as a wide range of preferences within the population. Somehow, the right size and shape of peg will show up to fit any given hole.

The ERJ property is a mess of oak species and hybrids.  Purists are horrified.  The deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, blue jays, raccoon, woodpeckers......have yet to register a complaint.


  1. If it works, it's NOT wrong... Just sayin...

  2. If it works, it's NOT wrong... Just sayin...

  3. Very interesting about the oaks Joe. You are only the second person I've known that used the terms lumper and splitter like that. The other guy had various job experiences including nuclear physics, brain research with lab rats, and petroleum reservoir engineering. I'm more of a lumper when I'm referring to my own work, but sometimes I can be a bit of a hair-splitter when I'm reviewing someone else's!

  4. Interesting. Looking at your map of the Nuttall oak, it seems to be (in Louisiana), east of the Red River/Atchafalaya River line. We have broad rivers in Louisiana, and jumping them is hard for a species, whether animal or vegetable. We have species of snake that have never jumped across a river and sustained a beach-head.

    1. Its a slow process, but if you think about, it, when an oxbow lake is formed, the part inside the curl is now on the other side of the big river! I suspect that some species may end up on the other side in this way.