Morgan Bulkeley’s Big Berkshire Trees — Winter Tree Week

Morgan Bulkeley’s Big Berkshire Trees — Winter Tree Week

Over 50 years ago, prolific writer and avid naturalist Morgan Bulkeley contributed more than 750 articles for the Berkshire Eagle. Under the title, “Our Berkshires,” Bulkeley illuminated the local history, people, and nature of our richly beautiful Berkshire home. 
During the years of 1968-1970, Bulkeley challenged local readers to contribute to a list of the largest and most notable trees in the Berkshires. Responses were swift and steady and 100+ trees were ultimately recorded.
I’d like to find out if any of these trees are still standing. To document the trees still in existence and the fates of the fallen soldiers, or even add a new tree to the list!
I’m asking for your help!
Below you’ll find a spreadsheet of the trees Bulkeley compiled. If you’re a resident (or curious visitor!) to any of the towns listed, head to the location and do some investigating. Keep in mind that references to certain names, homes, & locations may have changed over 53 years and may require some extra sleuthing. (And avoid private property!) Email your findings to: berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com
If you have a new big tree to add to the list, check out this link for instructions on how to measure basic tree circumference and email your findings to: berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com
In an effort to rekindle and deepen our connection with our natural communities, as well as honoring a man who truly understood what it meant to appreciate earth’s gifts, get outside and look around! Let’s go on a Berkshire county-wide scavenger hunt – a vegetation investigation!

We created a spreadsheet of the 1968-1970 Big Trees that Bulkeley compiled. If you have knowledge of a particular tree still standing, let us know! 

Print out the spreadsheet and join in the hunt! Let us know what you find. Email berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com

 Berkshire Eagle Archives 1968-1970


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Conifer Confusion — Winter Tree Week

Conifer Confusion — Winter Tree Week

Spruce, Pine, or Fir? 

Not gonna lie, for the longest time I called all evergreens pine trees. Conifers solely existed in Christmas tree world, and countless holidays went by without realizing that the oh, Tannenbaum I was trimming was actually a fir — tannenbaum meaning fir tree German.

Until the fateful day we brought home a blue spruce for Christmas…

One of the reasons we annually lug a real live tree into our living rooms is the smell, right? That unmistakable sharp, sweet, freshness that conjures up Christmas days of yore, and this tree was no exception — fragrant, shapely and silver-tinged, a holiday shrub that dreams are made of.

And then the needles began to fall, and the dream turned into a nightmare. Have you ever stepped bare-footed on a Lego? Yea, it’s like that, BUT SHARP. Like, an overlooked fragment of glass sharp, just nestled in the deep fibers of your carpet, lying in wait and no vacuum can touch them.

This spruce abuse stuck around for a few seasons and we swore off anything but firs for Christmases to come. But it was this rude introduction that got me to pay attention to evergreens in the first place.

So, How Do You Tell?

The Conifer family include pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, larches (these are not evergreens), and true cedars. They all bear cones, most have a single, straight trunk, a conical shape, and appear dark green in color. In order to tell them apart, we’ve got to get a little but closer. 

Shake Hands with the Tree

Go on, grab a branch and introduce yourself.

Pine needles are long. They grow in clusters of two or more and the number in a packet tells you the kind of pine. Red pine has packets of two needles, pitch pine three, and if a twig bears needles in packets of five, it’s a white pine. I remember that because “white” has five letters.

PINE: Playful Packets of Pointy Pins

Let’s meet someone else. Spruces can be stand-offish, even stiff, so take care when sidling up to say hi. Pull off a needle, and roll it between your fingers (I dare you). If it rolls easily, it’s a spruce. Careful not to prick your fingers! 

SPRUCE: Spiny, Stiff, Sharp as a Syringe

Fir trees are much friendlier. Fir needles are softer and flat, and cannot be rolled between your fingers. If it feels flat and doesn’t roll easily, it’s a fir.

FIR: Friendly, Flexible with Flat needles

Hemlocks seem shy to me, their branches always drooping towards the earth. Hemlock needles are flat and short, with blunt tips. These needles are attached to the twig by a small peg or “stem,” such that when you pluck one off, it is left behind. 

HEMLOCK: Hanging Hems Have Stems!

Hopefully, this helps clear up any conifer confusion you may have had. Remember, the best way to get to know a tree is to introduce yourself!

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Let’s Go Burl-lunking! — Winter Tree Week

Let’s Go Burl-lunking! — Winter Tree Week

Tree Warts, as my 7-year old calls them, are actually burls. And what exactly is a burl, you ask? A burl is a gnarly-looking, extraneous growth found on a tree.

Scientists are still not sure what causes these bulges to occur, but have theorized that a burl may be made when a tree is experiencing stress, injury, virus, or fungal infection. Other scientists believe that certain trees may have a genetic predisposition to forming burls as a result of certain environmental factors, like pollution or the mineral content in the soil.

Although they seem ugly on the outside, burls are highly prized by woodworkers who know what magnificent designs are often found on the inside. Kevin Smith, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, published a piece in 2012 on burl biology in the newsletter of the Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ and Foresters’ Association. Next to his article was a report detailing several Massachusetts burl thefts, including one where arboreal bandits climbed 30 feet into a “very old sugar maple” to steal two burls from either side of the trunk. 

I’m no burl-poacher, but I will steal a word from Berkshire cave-explorer Clay Perry. Instead of going spelunking, why not try burl-lunking! Skip the cavernous outcroppings, and instead hunt for the burliest growths. Grab a ruler, dive through the winter forest and see who can find the biggest, baddest, burl. (I’m making this up as I go folx, as we do). 

Some great places to go burl-lunking are Golden Hill Town Forest in Lee, Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale/Dalton, Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary in Peru, Greylock Glen in Adams, Kennedy Park in Lenox and Bullard Woods in Stockbridge. 

 

Want to recreate the swirlicious beauty found on the inside of the burl? Try out one of the painting techniques below! Do a Google image search “inside burls” for inspiration. 

Burl Fork Painting

Materials:

  • Heavier paper or cardstock
  • Paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Forks

Cut out a loose cross-section of a tree. Do it freehand, trees are all shapes & sizes! (I saved the scraps for another project.)

We taped our paper wood cookie down on the table and started to paint a small section. Then while the paint was still wet, the kids grabbed a fork and created their designs!

Milk Swirl Painting

Materials:

  • Shallow dish
  • Milk (Fuller fat milk works best)
  • Food Coloring
  • Dish Soap
  • Q-Tips
  • Paper

Fill a shallow dish with milk just so the bottom is covered. Choose 3 or 4 colors of food coloring and add a couple of drops of each in the center of your dish. 

Carefully pour one drop of dish soap into the center of the food coloring and observe what happens!

The kids then dipped their q-tips in soap and swirled the food coloring into different designs before it all mixed together.

We dipped a few of our paper scraps into the swirls before they were thoroughly mixed.

 Sources: The Biology of Burls

What is a Tree Burl

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Winter Tree Week

Winter Tree Week


 It’s no secret. Trees are my favorite. Nature and the outdoors are my jam, but trees hold the wooden key to my heart. Strong, silent, and crucial to life-sustaining oxygen, like Richard Power’s wrote, ““This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”

If you love ’em so much, why don’t you marry them?” Maybe I will friend, maybe I will. Google marry a tree, it’s a thing.

Sylvan nuptials aside, we all stop and take notice of these stoic sentinels during their colorful fall transformations, when we’re seeking the summer shade, and maybe even during their spring rebirth.

But it’s during stick season, that trees are often overlooked. When we slow down and take notice, we can discover the subtle changes of the dormant dendrites as they branch out under the winter sky, quiet, lying in wait for the earth’s axis to tilt towards the sun.   

This week we’re celebrating the trees of winter, taking time to notice the typically overlooked. This observation requires you to up your perception from low-res to high, to perceive things that may have been invisible to us, and to “break bud” with our tree friends, as we all wait for the promise of spring. 

 This week, join us as we go for a sky swim, go burl-unking, learn the 3 B’s of winter tree ID, hunt for Bulkeley’s big Berkshire trees, clear up conifer confusion, and notice, shift, & rewire our mindset with tree silhouettes. It’s gonna be tree-mendous!


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Roots Both Bitter & Sweet – Longcope Park

Roots Both Bitter & Sweet – Longcope Park

Where We Went: Longcope Park – South Lee, MA

When We Went: Early January

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10): 1.5 Boots

 Trail Length: Loop Trail, just under 1 mile (Blue Blazes)

How Long it Took Us: 2 Hours

Overview: Janet Longcope Park is 46-acres of eastern hemlock, pine and oak nestled amongst residences off of Church Street in South Lee. When we visited, we observed that the property was slowly choking under the weight of invasive Oriental Bittersweet, a plight that in Winter, made an indelible impression.

 It’s namesake – Janet Percy Dana Longcope -was the only daughter of Paul Dana, noted Gilded Age family and editor of The New York Sun. (FUN FACT: the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park is named after Janet’s grandfather) Serving as a nurse with the French Army in World War I, Janet would go on to marry John Hopkins Director of Medicine, Warfield Theobald Longcope. The couple would later move to Lee, settling their family on a tract they’d call Cornhill Farm. Now a seasonal rental property, what remains of the Longcope farm is around the corner from Longcope Park. 

Photo Credit: Former Cornhill Farm – Now Jacob’s Tanglewood Ranch

 Janet, was a master bookbinder, and had a bindery attached to the house. She took on commissions, and taught and trained with famed Arno Werner, whose bookbinding shop was in nearby Pittsfield. After her husbands death in 1953, Janet traveled to countries all over the world, returning to some, such as India, as many as nine times. An avid photographer, she enjoyed giving informal lectures about her travels to places like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Malaysia, and Lebanon (to name just a few). In 1974, she died at Cornhill Farm, aged 88. Janet’s enormous collection of Asian photographs was later gifted to the Smithsonian.

 “The Wings” – Estate of Charles A. Dana on Glen Cove

 

Oddly enough, while researching Janet Percy Dana Longcope, I stumbled on the very subject that had made our visit to Longcope Park so… bittersweet, (yup. I did it.) but it would surface 200 miles away on the tiny island of Dosoris in the town of Glen Cove, north of Long Island, NY.

The Wings,” as it was called, was Charles Dana’s summer retreat. Charles was Janet’s grandfather and in 1889, Garden and Forest magazine published a letter to the editor describing this elegant estate in great detail but one sentence in particular stood out:

“A seawall is built all around the island, and it is draped and festooned with Matrimony vine (Lycium barbatum), our native Bitter-sweet, a Japanese species of the same genus (Celastrus articulatus) and Periploca Graeca, which are planted on the top.”

How do you like that? The very problem currently strangling the woods that make up Longcope Park, making their foreboding appearance 130 years ago at her grandpa’s house, no less! It’s ironic that these two members of the Dana family were such ardent fans of all things Asian. Janet capturing her passion through photography and Charles, a notable Asian art collector, owning over 600 pieces in his lifetime. The Chinese oaks that graced the grounds at “The Wings” were planted with acorns purportedly collected from Confucius’s tomb! It seems strangely congruent yet grimly sardonic that this land gifted by Janet Longcope is threatened to be wiped out by an eastern thread, this Asian essence of which she (and Charles) so treasured. 

What We Dug: Truth be told, before our visit, I had never even heard of Longcope Park. As a lifetime Berkshire resident, it is always a treat to find these lesser-known plots scattered around the Berkshires. We had no idea what to expect but were pleasantly surprised with an easy-walking loop trail that includes two footbridges crossing a small stream.The downed trees that lay trailside made natural balance beams and the hollow logs were fascinating to the kids as we made our way through the woods. The tall pines were swaying in hushed tones with the cold winter wind. Waterside, we built stone towers and tried to keep dry, penguin-walking over the icy bridges.

After fungi was inspected, ferns were collected and we passed a moment in silence for a fallen friend (the shrew), we were back at the parking lot and now well acquainted with Longcope Park.

What We Could Do Without: This. This thing right here. The serpentine succubus that is Oriental bittersweet. A deciduous, woody, perennial vine that is native to parts of Asia. First introduced to the U.S. around 1870 as a hardy and ornamental cover plant, it is now found virtually everywhere in most eastern states. Bittersweet is considered to be one of our most problematic invasive species. It grows really fast and can quickly strangle and topple trees. It has an extremely high germination rate, even when conditions are poor and sunlight scarce. Because of its attractive orange berries, birds and people have aided in its spread because neither can resist carrying them around to new places. Bittersweet doesn’t just rely on magpie-eyed humans to ensure its survival, ohhh no, this robo-plant can also re-sprout from its roots, making just cutting back the vine totally futile. It can easily climb trees up to 90-feet tall, literally choking out and girdling any plants that it clings to. (Cue the Jumanji flashbacks)

It’s been observed to have completely covered half-acre wood lots in just 7-10 years.

Against the bare winter landscape, the orange fruit of the bittersweet stuck out EVERYWHERE. And like a ligneous brown boa constrictor, we could see it’s smothering damage all over Longcope Park.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Eastern Hemlock, White Pine, Beech, Polypody Fern, Mountain Wood Fern, Acadian Fly-Catcher, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Winter Wren, Woodpecker, Chickadee, Nuthatch, Red Squirrel, Red-backed Vole, Smoky Shrew, White-footed Mouse

Must Know Before You Go’s : Although the temperature was below 30F during our visit, (and colder in the woods!), many portions of the trail were pretty muddy and wet. There was ample room to go around the muddy areas, but keep this in mind as Spring gets closer and the snow melts. The entrance to the parking area off of Church Street can sneak up on you, so don’t be surprised if you drive right by and have to turn around.

 No facilities on property. Leashed dogs only. No mountain biking, motorized vehicles or xc-skiing.

 

Directions: From US-7 S in Lenox – Follow US-7 S for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto W Road and follow for 1.6 miles. W Road becomes Church Street and Longcope Park will be on the left.

 Website: https://www.mass-trails.org/towns/Lee/longcopeproperty.html

 Resources: https://www.lee.ma.us/sites/leema/files/uploads/lee_land_trust_trail_guide.pdf

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

 

The past few years we’ve celebrated the turn of a new year with a First Day Hike. Read about the changes for 2021 below and then check out this list of family-friendly winter hikes to help you plan your own First Week Hike adventure. 

First Day Hikes were an initiative that began in Massachusetts in 1992, 380 people showed up for the inaugural event at Blue Hills Reservation! Since then, it has spread all over the nation and all 50 states now recognize this tradition as an alternative start to the new year!

For the celebration of this initiative’s 30th anniversary, the DCR invites you to step into the New Year with a First Week Hike, a COVID-19 alternative to the traditional First Day Hikes. 

There are some changes to this year’s tradition in order to keep everyone safe during the pandemic:

  • Extending the traditional one-day hike to any day during First Week 2021, to prevent over-crowding due to COVID-19.
  • Introducing self-guided adventures to ensure safe social distancing
  • Picking a park near you to keep it safe and local,
  • If you can’t get to a state park or have limited abilities, try getting out of doors each day of First Week 2021 for fresh air and movement right where you live—to build a healthy habit this the New Year,
  • Sharing your DCR state park adventure on Instagram and twitter @MassDCR #MAFirstWeekHikes

Additional changes include:

  • DCR visitor centers and rest rooms may be closed due to COVID-19,
  • Hospitality options such as hot chocolate offered in prior years will not be available due to COVID-19,
  • No guided hikes are offered or allowed to prevent clustering of visitors, and
  • Masks or facial coverings will be required at all times in all state parks.

DCR has 150 state parks and thousands of miles of trails. To find an outdoor location near you, visit:  www.mass.gov/info-details/dcr-programs-and-events for a list of recommended self-guided hikes. 

You can find our 2020 hike HERE

Use the hashtags #MAFirstWeekHikes & #BerkshireFamilyHikes to be featured!