Sunday, May 11, 2014

Russian Olives Marooned

Weather: Winds, random cold mornings, last rain, 4/19/14.

Black locust leaves emerged 5/6 and were killed by the cold.

What’s blooming in the area: Spirea, Austrian copper and yellow species roses, some iris; buds on snowballs, peonies.

Two of the round rail fences that were falling a part have been replaced, one with pipe, one with wood rails. Several others have also put up board rail fences. I marvel that people can drive by pealing fences every day, and think they’ve been granted a special compensation from the depredations of weather.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, bractless and tawny cryptanthas, hoary cress, tumble mustard, tufted white evening primrose, purple mat flower, fern leaf globemallow, oxalis, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions, cheat, needle, rice and June grasses; cottonwoods leafing

In my yard: Bath pinks, snow-in-summer, moss phlox, vinca; buds on privet, golden spur columbine, oriental poppies.

Animal sightings: Cottontail, gecko, small birds, big yellow butterfly, lady bugs, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: Russian olives are one of those trees you think nothing can kill.

Take a chain saw to one.

Elaeagnus angustifolia comes back.

Light a torch.

It comes back. Slowly, but it comes back.

Take away its water, it stumbles.

It starts in the dry days of summer. The leaves don’t turn yellow or fall or anything obvious. They simply reflex a bit, look grayer, sparser from a distance.

They get along. The rains always come in late summer, and they revive. Then comes a dry winter. They leaf a bit slower than their neighbors in spring.

Instead of recolonizing their existing branches, they retreat, recoup from the base.

Mine isn’t the only one. Trees that were doing fine suddenly aren’t. I may have started my troubles a couple years ago when I changed how I watered. I see neighbor’s trees having problems, and remember houses were for sale. New owners may not care the same way. Just the accidental changes that accompany civilization.

Then I look at some that took root near the bosque where they got water from the runoff from the road. Nothing changed, except there’s less runoff when there’s less rain.

I look at the one in the arroyo that’s been retrenching every summer, inhabiting fewer and fewer of its limbs. The only thing that’s changes is what flows through during the monsoons.

Droughts suck water from the depths where roots rummage. For a few years, they adapt, follow the water upward. Then, not enough seeps down, the roots that could get by are stranded. Dead branches record the peaks from the past. Silver records the present.

1. Russian olives (the small gray trees) growing near the river, 2 May 2014

2. Russian olive in an irrigated field, 11 July 2011.

3. Tree cut down after it was hit by a truck, 9 August 2009.

4. Same tree a few months later, 24 October 2009.

5. Russian olive soon after the plants under it were burned, 30 March 2013.

6. Same tree after the first frosts, 1 November 2013.

7. Russian olives growing several hundred feet away from the ones in picture #1, same day, 2 May 2014.

8. My tree last summer, 13 July 2013.

9. My tree last week, 2 May 2014.

10. My tree last week, 2 May 2014.

11. Tree in the arroyo, 11 July 2013.

12. Same tree as picture #2, this spring, 2 May 2014. I’m didn’t see the field flooded recently.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

Although the blue green Russian Olive looks like a beautiful addition to the garden, it is really a devious tree here in New Mexico. Their nasty thorns make pruning a hazardous (not to mention uneasy) job. Then there is the way they spread, akin to Siberian Elms and Salt Cedar, especially along the river banks. clogging the tributaries and squeezing out our native trees. Going to Farmington along Hwy 550 you see the Russian Olives engulfing the Rio Puerco near Cuba, and the Animas and San Juan Rivers by Aztec and Bloomfield.