Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hidden Secret; Queen Anne Cherries at Strawberry Creek

Queen Anne Cherry Trees growing wild along a creek running through the town of Idyllwild California.
Photo Credit: Mine!
In the old days after the controversial development which brought Idyllwild the Fairway Market, Hardware Store, new Post Office and other assorted businesses, the scene above was more of a sedge and Rose covered meadow. Now the trees have come back and replaced a lot of what once was meadow and bog.
Almost exactly a year ago on May 2nd of last year 2012, I wrote a piece on the advantages and successes of forest floor understory plants growing within the natural underground mycorrhizal grid. In my experience living in Idyllwild I noticed a few unusual but successful plant anomalies that seemed strange for their location. Here is that link from last year -  Forest Floor Plants That operate in the Grid Network  One of these was a giant Standard Red Delicious Apple tree which was growing successfully in the dark shade of an old growth Ponderosa Pine, White Fir, Black Oak and Incense cedar forest canopy. Incredibly, every year this tree produced numerous large healthy red delicious apples. Now, how could it do that if not in fun sun ? It was connected to the fungal grid. The forest itself above no doubt was helping provide the nutrition this tree needed for successful growth and development. Sure enough apples grow well in the Boreal Forests around my house in Sweden and produce Apples. Apples always were originally a forest tree anyway. Most folks don't realize this when they plant many orchard trees where they are told full Sun is not only necessary but imperative if they want good productivity. This tree proved them wrong. sadly while I was up there Sunday, I drove past the property where that tree was located on Village Drive and it has since been removed along with some of the old growth pines. In another sad view, many of the old growth Forest between the Strawberry Creek and South Circle Drive. As I was driving east and looking to the left before turning on Village Dr, I was taken back by the view of the Village Development which could never be seen prior to this forest removal which no doubt has some sort of Development motive behind it. 

Credit: Cook'n Newsletter

Queen Anne Cherries
There was also another interesting anomaly which caught my attention during my time living in Idyllwild years ago 1981 through 1983 and this was the volunteer germination of a Queen Anne Cherry tree along the creek below Gary's Country Meats Butcher Shop. While walking the creek and seeing this tree for the first time, I thought this 5 foot tall small tree was a  Pacific Dogwood tree (Cornus nuttallii) . Clearly it wasn't as I later found out, but I had never seen one before, so the obvious similar patterns in leaves and blooms under the dark forest canopy masked some of the trees similar  characteristics. Later as the tree grew huge and produced the Queen Anne cherry fruits, I realized what it actually was, but again I was surprised at it prolific fruit product under the dark canopy of the old growth forest. Was this not also an orchard tree that needed full sun like the vast Cherry orchards below in Beaumont and Banning ? But some time later while walking the Creek in 1983, I saw the fruit which revealed the true identity of this tree. Even a lone Stellar's Jay was rejoicing with one in it's mouth. Later that one tree turned into a small grove of Cherry trees along the creek banks.  I figured that some tourist was walking the creek eating Queen Anne Cherries purchased at the market, spitting out the pits and just one of them was viable and lucky enough to land in just the right location only to germinate and produce this beautiful tree.

Photo Credit: Mine!
The forest here is more open than before. Someone on the opposite side of the creek has cut down several large tall pines for no doubt some future development scheme. Still, it gives these Queen Anne Cherries at shot at more sunshine. They were productive before within the darker forest canopy, but I'm now curious as to the effect more sunshine will have on them. One the the curious and amazing things about a healthy forested environment is that many fruit trees don't seem to require as much full sun for food potential as they appear to get some of what they need within the underground mycorrhizal web which transports carbons and other nutrients along an incredible transportation grid. The new circumstance should be fun to watch over time.
Photo Credit: Mine!
This is the largest of the group of cherry trees here and I am assuming the original one, but I'm not quite sure. Nevertheless, you can make out some similarities to Pacific Dogwood which is native here and I have seen before, but only along permanent creeks or water seeps within the forest here in Idyllwild where moisture is always abundant and dependable. Even still, to find something you'll normally think of as something domesticated, and yet found up here in the wild and spreading slowly along the wilds of the creeks is amazing. No doubt helped out by the local Stellar's Jays. 
Photo Credit: Mine!
Here is a much brighter and clearer shot of the Queen Anne Cherry tree's foliage with Strawberry Creek in the background. Beautiful garden fresh foliage and yet you have to keep telling yourself that these trees are all in the wild. It really illustrates how productive any ecosystem can be if the right underground fungal connections are firing on all cylinders. 
Photo Credit: Mine!
Here is an even closer view of foliage and notice that the tree has already bloomed and now setting some fruit. I was hoping for some flowers, but certainly any fruit in my mind would have been out of the question. What a pleasant surprise this was. Perhaps some locals reading will be able to collect some fruit towards the end of June.
Photo Credit: Mine!
This is yet another photo of one of the examples of plants in the wild which benefit from the networking which goes on underground inside the Mycorrhizal fungal grid. This is Pink Flowering Currant (Ribes nevadense) which is also native along streams and creeks and also moves about by underground stolon and above ground vines
Photo Credit: Mine!
This is a close up shot of the pink compound clustered flower arrangement of this Ribes nevadense or Pink Flowering Creek Currant. BTW, the fruits are also edible if you can find some after the birds have been through.
Photo Credit: Mine!
Finally, this is a Mahonia or Oregon Grape, but I am not sure the variety. I also don't know whether they were deliberately planted here or another escapee from someone's garden. Anyway there were several. In a closing, I'd love to see of anyone actually go up there when fruit is ripe on the Queen Anne Cherry tree and can photograph them. Share with others your Pics.

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