“Money in the bank” is a good feeling for moving ahead. Scrawny Ponderosa Pine will use banked nutrients like any other tree, if those seeds find the right target and the nutrients are available to them. So who is the seedling banker of choice on the dry uplands of the Little Spokane River? Well, it turns out:
old rotting uncut stumps
On a run in July, sweating and botanizing my way downriver, the flora at my feet caught my attention. Why I slowed to focus my eyeballs on yellow pine seedlings, is any guess: the heat draining my energy reserves, my dry mouth, or thoughts of my own dwindling bank account, there was plenty of cues to make free-associations with the trees!
How are they handing the normal hostilities to life in eastern Washington, I wondered?
Though natural ponderosa pine seedling generation is sporadic and thought to be from certain years of heavy seed crops along with favorable weather the following growing season: according to the Department of Agriculture mortality is still high for the seedlings during the first 3 years because of the typical dry conditions where the pines grow.
So, what did I file away in my mind?
Along a short section of trail where cut stumps had rotted, there were no seedlings yet established. A few seedlings had formed just outside those stumps while on snags rotting in place, there were numerous cases of seedlings growing within, taping into a rich bank account of chunky brown rot. I probed my finger down in one of these and felt moisture at 6″ below; perfect for a tap rooting little seedling. Is this a rotten case of nutrient cycling?