Sunday, December 1, 2013

How is your Aspen?

I have a small planting of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) on my property.  It is a clone.  That is, it is a single plant with multiple stems, interconnected by a common root system.  By "small", I mean a 25 foot by 25 foot patch.

Quaking Aspen

Quaking Aspen is a niche player in the Southern Michigan ecosystem.  It is a major player up north where sandy, nutrient poor soil combined with occasional fires keep trees shorter.  Down here, we have better soil and Quaking Aspen is overtopped by taller, longer lived species.

Quaking Aspen is a keystone species for Beaver and Ruffed Grouse.  It is a pioneer species that quickly establishes on open soil.  It also clings, by the barest slivers of its fingernails, in the rim around bogs.

My little patch is in a wildlife travel corridor that separates two pastures.  It is a soggy patch that lacks enough definition, or ambition to be called a ditch.

Buck Rubs

Bucks around here show very specific preferences for the species of trees they use for buck rubs, that is, the saplings they use to "polish" the velvet from their antlers.

The number one favorite, by a wide margin, is Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus).  They home in on specimens of this tree and destroy them.  I stopped planting Eastern White Pine seedlings because of the mortality rate.

The other species they seem to favor is......Quaking Aspen.  I a not sure what the attraction is, but both Eastern White Pine and Aspen are very 'springy' and have soft bark, especially on the 1.5" diameter saplings that seem most attractive to them.  Maybe they pick a punching bag they know they can beat.

There are at least five buck rubs in this picture.
As you can see from the picture, it is not just one generation of deer choosing this little patch of aspen.  There are some older trees that were rubbed a long time ago and healed up.  There are also buck rubs on the far sides of these trees.

It is time to rejuvenate this patch of aspen.  That is done by mimicking a fire or avalanche.  The aspen will vigorously sprout up from the root system and produce many, closely spaced saplings.

Most people lack the skill to clear cut aspen and drive T posts at the same time.
In terms of plant community succession, I am attempting to get this species to "run in place" by clear cutting this pioneer species.  Two trees were left standing, a red maple (a favorite of Mrs ERJ) and a grafted mulberry tree, a favorite of the birds, raccoons and possum.

1 comment:

  1. I have a small planting of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) on my property. It is a clone. Trees-Plants Nursery