I always thought of Staghorn Sumac as a bush, not a tree – until we moved to our present house, where two gorgeous Staghorn Sumac trees grace our yard. They are particularly beautiful in autumn.
The house is about 23 years old, and I presume the sumacs are around the same age.
Sumacs generally sucker like crazy: shoots come up from their roots and will grow as big as competition allows. But apparently, if you mow around the tree, allowing only one sumac stem to grow, it will grow to the height of a small tree, about 18′ (5.5m) tall. These trees still grow suckers, but they tend to appear some distance from the tree. Presumably they don’t grow as readily on older roots.
The leaves form an umbrella to catch the light. We have to prune them regularly along the driveway on their southeast side where the branches have grown too low. Branches on the inside of the umbrella die off and break off easily.
The root system must be fairly weak, as both trees lean away from the direction of the strongest winds. One of them (not the one in the picture) reportedly toppled over in Hurricane Juan. The previous owner pulled it upright with his ATV. It still stands, but since it is getting harder to mow under it on one side, it must be gradually leaning more and more, like the Tower of Pisa before they fixed it.
I have successfully removed two other sumacs on the property by sawing them down and removing any shoots that appeared for a couple of years. So they are not too persistent.
Our sumacs are great climbing trees for young children, as the branches are low. Birds are also drawn to them for the seeds that grow in attractive fuzzy red spikes. The spikes stay on the tree all winter, making the sumac a most attractive tree year-round.
Another storm is on its way. This one is the kind of blizzard you’d expect in January, with 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) of snow.
Atlantic Canada has been in the news lately with a series of storms in December, one week after another. If you just watched the weather channel you might think that we’re living in a disaster area and maybe that’s why I haven’t been posting frequently.
But where we live, we haven’t lost power for more than a minute, and we’ve escaped the brunt of the storms. The worst damage tends to be localized, and even though Nova Scotia is small, one side of the province often has very different weather than the other. Some weather systems track up the Bay of Fundy, for example, while others are phenomena of the Atlantic Ocean. And the Margaree Valley has received a lot of rain which seems to get trapped by the surrounding mountains.
The Annapolis Valley was hard hit by one storm which downed many trees, knocking out so many power lines that it took days to restore full service. Berwick United Church Camp, with its 500-year-old towering hemlocks, was badly hit, as was the Kentville Ravine which also has a stand of old growth hemlock. I’ve seen photos of damage in both places on Facebook. It is evident that some of the trees that came down were hollow and perhaps were near the end of their natural life. Thus the storm did what storms do: fell trees so that they can return to the soil and nurture new growth that will flourish in the sunlit openings they leave in their wake. Much as it feels tragic to those who love those trees – and I speak as one who grew up attending Berwick Camp every summer and loved its cool, shaded grounds and majestic trees – this is Nature’s way of renewing itself.
So we’ll take what comes – what else can we do? – and hope the power stays on.
Apple blossoms were blooming in Lunenburg last Thursday, which means they’re past their prime in the Annapolis Valley already. The Apple Blossom Festival will apparently be blossom-less. Usually the organizers hit the blossoms right on with their timing, but this year it is generally agreed that spring is 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule.
Not that we’re complaining … this is my favourite time of year, when the leaves burst forth. If it’s part of a long-term trend, however, it could be very disruptive to the natural balance of blooming and birthing, migration and munching, which governs the ongoing survival of many animals and plants.
Spring is early across Canada, not just in Nova Scotia, or so I hear. Is spring early where you live? Leave a comment below.