Treeline in the mirror

Which photo has the treeline?

1. No treeline, the mountain is not high enough.

2. Treeline, the line above which trees no longer grow.

So, what is a treeline?

Well, Wikipedia can tell you; but the mountains I am looking at are in Switzerland so I’ll refer to the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich for the definition of a treeline.

A mountain treeline certainly is not a line in the common sense. The treeline is defined as the high elevation, climate driven limit of tree growth.

The treeline is the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing. It is found at high elevations. Beyond the treeline, trees cannot tolerate the environmental conditions (usually cold temperatures, extreme snowpack, or associated lack of available moisture).

It is easy to get into the weeds discussing the geographical, botanical and topographical details of a treeline. Just look at the images above for a general idea and the graphic below for a summary.

Mountain treeline explained

But where does the mirror fit in?

A treeline is natural. It tells about interactions between ecotypes. And that makes me think. Is the treeline a vector or raster? Is it a thin line, a narrow path one pixel wide or is it a broad and wide line with varying gradients, blurs and opacities?

I think the latter. And looking in the mirror at treelines, I wonder…are human cultures like environmental ecotypes? Are they definable on their edges by lines? Raster or vector? Is diversity our strength…or our weakness…or is the effort to define cultural differences a non-sequitur?

***

In my book, Tangier Gardens, CJ faced incredible cultural challenges.

The Tangier gardens saved that young man from the relentless, brutal challenges issued by the northwest Africa landscape. It’s an intriguing story about culture, design and humans.

Give it a go.

They just make me happy!

Lime or linden?

I don’t go out looking for trees–but when I’m out sometimes they call me.

This year the Tilia trees’ blossoms came earlier than normal. It was my olfactory pleasure. I could not say no. The fragrance captured me. It made me smile.

An online search of Tilia spp., their floral fragrance and their teas can keep you busy a whole day. Bottom line? Tilia fragrance and perfumes, Tilia fragrance and teas…a deep and mystical appreciation by all involved. No one can describe with absolute certainty what is the amazing fragrance. So, I’ll tell a personal story.

There is a time after the glorious spring greens that a summer tedium green takes over all deciduous trees. Tedium green? That’s the summer green that makes all deciduous trees look the same. They all fade into a dark green, amorphic background. 

This morning it began. Mature foliage on all deciduous trees had grown full size and darkened. It was working–each leaf a mini-plant-factory taking in the glorious sunshine and the CO2 to assure their health and ours.

Here is what I found in town. Unannounced, the nearest Tilia tree–its fragrance descended upon me. The tree was already a physical landmark. I realized it was also a sociological landmark, a local center for relaxation–soothing away anxieties. Its fragrance does that.

In other parts of town, people were climbing into the lower Tilia branches where they collected flowers. They took them home for drying to produce homemade herb tea known for its calming pleasure.

Look for your closest Tilia or lime or linden.

Under the linden, the local landmark where everyone gathers to relax and enjoy the linden flower fragrance.

Summer sunrise on the landmark flowering linden.

Alone, the size of the linden identifies it as a local landmark in town.

When CJ went to study local landmarks in the Moroccan towns (medinas), he learned things about landscapes and gardens they didn’t teach at university. Check out Tangier Gardens for a good read.

Spring primrose

Primula veris

At 2,000 meters above sea level, in the northern range of the Swiss Alps, I rediscovered the spring joy I had experienced three weeks ago, albeit at 500 meters above sea level.

This joy can be discovered anytime, anywhere.

This is the joy that Christopher Janus experiences in the Mediterranean gardens and landscape of Tangier, Morocco. Read about it, muse and adversary, in my book, Tangier Gardens.

Lilac Sunday

Lilacs. Syringa species.

A long time ago–an embarassing number of years–more than you need to know, I worked at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Boston in the United States. Their specialization was woody plants. 

They have four hundred named cultivars, varieties and species of lilac (Syringa). Each spring they have a massive public event that huge crowds attend–Lilac Sunday. The event timing varied as climate related events do. Early warm spring meant early lilacs could be mid-late April. Cold and a late spring meant late lilacs could be mid May.

So we watched carefully each year to determine accurately when would Lilac Sunday be.

All that crossed my mind as I was looking and enjoying lilac fragrance everywhere in my home town today. So if I was to call Lilac Sunday, I’d call it this week–Mother’s Day in the USA. 

And the climate? A normal average year.

Go out and find a lilac. Enjoy the blooms and their fragrance. They go by rather quickly as May warms the earth.

For a virtual visit to the lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum, there is a 3 minute video at this link here (Mask not required).

The advertisement for this year’s Lilac Sunday celebration is here.

If you are really into the beauty and fragrance of flowers, please join my email list to get updates on the discoveries of my protagonist, Christopher Janus (CJ) and his discoveries in the landscape, especially the plant world.

Spring at the forest edge

You may have been there before–maybe not.

Don’t we all feel joy at the unfurling of the leaves and flowers with the coming of spring?

What happens where the pasture flowers meet the leafy forest?

What is that beauty to the eyes–in the air? 

Does it emanate from the plants?

How does it make us feel better?

Find out for yourselves.

And it happened to CJ. In Tangier Gardens

He describes it. Read about the joy.

https://amzn.to/3HLrtyv

Liver problems?

Hepatica nobilis–portals?

Hepatica pushing up through last year’s beech leaves at 600meters above sea level in the forests just above Interlaken, Switzerland.

Still not sure about portals? Neither was CJ.

My favorite graffiti

This is green in real life, IRL.

…no political correctness…

…no social justice…

…no politics whatsoever.

This green graffiti is stone disrupted by plants.

My favorite. Tell me it isn’t beautiful.

Find yourself some.

Favorite Fog

Fog or cloud? This morning, this is what I saw. You might say–fog what’s the big deal.

You might say that if you have never lived among steep mountains in a climate blessed with humidity and precipitation.

Let me get on with it.

On the ground it may as well be fog. Can’t see blue sky or sun. Can only see 50 meters in front of me. Definitely fog. 

Or is it?

I live at 600meters above sea level in that fog.

But from a camera 1300meters above sea level, I am seeing that my ground level fog looks distinctly like cloud cover. A sea of clouds like all of us have seen while flying at 30,000 to 40,000 feet.

For me the question of fog or clouds is one of the pleasant riddles of life. Hope you have found it the same.

In the afternoon the clouds began drifting away or put another way, down river, downstream on the Aare River.

A 31Dec2021 Surprise

Don’t we all need a pleasant surprise? I was given one that I’d like to share with anyone who derives pleasure from the landscape.

Watching the sky in mountainous landscapes in my neighborhood, I am always struggling with clouds or fog. At what point does fog become a cloud? And do clouds ever become fog?

How can I even ask these questions? 

Because in steep mountainous terrain along a river valley whose source, not far away, is in the above tree line, high mountain pass glaciers, I regularly see the life cycle of clouds–the speed of cloud formation and dissolution. 

And that for me is excitement. 

Why? Because the speed of cloud is slower than human patience of vision. 

How often can we look at a cloud long enough to see its swirling edges grow or decline–and then until the cloud disappears or generates from nothing to a huge presence.

Today, 31Dec2021, I had an unexpected present handed to me by the local mountain landscape. 

I saw for the very first time–what I could for certainty define–ground fog. It began last night at sunset. Then in the middle of the night it grew while I slept. By morning, we were enveloped in it. It wasn’t deep but it was thick. 

In the clear sky sunshine, I took a walk to explore how the ground fog moved (more of a slow-motion slither, an exhale, a flow) around the valley floor. 

There is something special about seeing in real life, real time, the life cycle of clouds and in this case ground fog. 

I go through the whole gaia thing and the science of temp/moisture/wind. But in the end, I am convinced there is some thing alive in this life cycle. Are the mountains breathing in and out? I don’t know. My weak speculation is ignorant at best. But I feel what I feel. All I can do is write about what goes on in the landscape. It is all around each and every one of us. And it is mysterious…arcane.

Real snow

I wrote previously about winter colors, snow line and black and white.

The most attractive black and white in our landscape is the magpie, the Eurasian magpie, Pica pica. They have an large, active nest nearby in the top of a huge linden tree, Tilia cordata. When the first winter snowfall arrived the nest got so snowed in…it was no longer visible, neither were the magpies.

Where are the magpies?