Discussions and news related to invasive and exotic species affecting our trees and forests.
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Fungus threatens Rocky Mountains' ancient bristlecone pines
By Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, July 23, 2010.
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An exotic fungus spreading southward through Rocky Mountain forests is threatening Colorado's oldest trees — the gnarled limber and bristlecone pines that can live longer than 2,000 years.
White pine blister rust fungus afflicts hundreds of those trees on national forest land and in the Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain national parks.
There is no known cure for the fungus, which penetrates pine needles, then covers branches with clamshell-shaped cankers and orange pustules, eventually girdling tree trunks.
"It's killing trees in Colorado. And it is still spreading," said Anna Schoettle, a U.S. Forest Service scientist.
Clamshell-shaped growths are a sign of the fungus, whose spores are spread on the wind. (Jeff Mitton, Special to The Denver Post)
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky
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White Pine Blister Rust is a really nasty disease. From what I have learned from a U.S Forester WPBR is wiping out Foxtail pine in the northern Sierras (Reno north)but has not really made it's way to the Southern Sierra. The climate is much drier in the southern half and helps keep it in check. But all it can take is an unusually rainy season to drive the spores more south. Ribes can be a host to WPBR and it is fairly common through out the lower elevations to Sierras and White Mountains. What is of concern, is that Ribes will eventually migrate to higher elevations as our average annual temperatures rise due to global warming. Last I heard was that the White Mountains in Ca are clear of WPBR. I believe precedures are in things place to keep Ribes in check. The real sad thing is that all 5 needle pines are affected by WPBR and Sugar Pines have been taking a huge hit. Our eastern White Pine is also suspectable to it but from what I can gather there is more genetic diversity/resistance to our eastern White Pines than many of the western 5 needle pines. In fact I had to trash a really nice Rocky mt bristlecoe pine the other day because it had WPBR. Oh one of the many challenges to growing/collecting non-native conifers in the more humid east.
The U.S Forest service has trial gardens to see if there is any natural resistance within western 5 needle pines. The other action they are contemplating if things get really hairy is to take some of these plants in other locals outside there range to help preserve the species until better control are developed. Brave new world for 5 needle pines.
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Ed & Marc,
I did not know that Bristlecone was a member of the white pine family.