Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

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CyrusK.
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Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by CyrusK. » December 16th, 2019, 12:22 pm

Yesterday I skinned out to Elk Meadows. Started out from the Nordic center at HRM at around 10. Beautiful bluebird day at Hood, Meadows was packed. The trail was very calm for the first leg. There was a well-established path and I didn’t see anyone. Newton crossing got interesting, the log wears just about as wide as my skis. I saw someone heading upstream to try and find a better crossing. The switchbacks were fine except for a few sections where the creek was running and I had to take the skis off. I descended to the edge of the meadows, then turned back. No wildlife spotted, but I saw some rabbit tracks (snow hare?). Oh, and the argyle tree. I skied back down the switchbacks and I was able to hop the creeks. The way back went fast. I got dinner at Master Kong’s, a tiny Chinese place just past 82nd.
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Wy’east in a winter coat:
Oh and I have some ideas about the argyle tree, an old Mt. Hood mystery:
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The Argyle Tree
(Here’s the old thread: https://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/vie ... =17&t=5268)

I think the argyle tree might have been infected with dwarf mistletoe. It apparently causes irregular growths on trees. ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arceuthobium, https://wyeastblog.org/2019/11/21/13-t ... mistletoe/).
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Dwarf mistletoe
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Dwarf mistletoe might explain some of the common trends among argyle trees (several specimens were discussed in the original thread): the trees are mostly in the rain shadow, and appear to be mostly Douglass fir. The argyle tree on Hood is probably a Douglas fir (due to the size of its trunk). Dwarf mistletoe causes abnormal growth on the trees it infects, including prolific branching and swelling in the branches and the trunk. I spotted several trees in the area with the characteristic “witches brooms” that come from dwarf mistletoe.
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Witches broom growth
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Swollen branches
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Then again, it may not be mistletoe at all. I noticed other snags which had twisted grain. Some were so gnarled that a burn pattern spiraled up the trunk. I’m pretty sure this is caused by the wind slowly twisting the tree as it grows. The patterns on the argyle tree might be caused by the wood growing strangely under stress caused by torsion. Or by the wood healing over tension cracks which spiral up the trunk. I noticed that the back of the argyle tree only had diagonal lines in one direction, which is consistent with this. However, this theory doesn’t explain the cross-hatching patterns, only the diagonal lines. Still, it might be more plausible since I don’t know how mistletoe-induced trunk swelling would directly cause the patterns.
Cyrus "Ice" K.

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DannyH
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by DannyH » December 16th, 2019, 7:41 pm

I saw an Argyle Tree very similar to the Elk Meadow Tree in the Boulder Creek wilderness along the Umpqua River last spring, wondering if Dwarf Mistletoe grows down there as well?
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CyrusK.
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by CyrusK. » December 16th, 2019, 8:11 pm

That’s an interesting specimen, the marks don’t line up diagonally are all. Hmm...
Cyrus "Ice" K.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by BurnsideBob » December 16th, 2019, 8:27 pm

Thanks for posting the link to the Argyle Tree thread.

I was struck by the Elk Meadows Trail Argyle Tree and have been keeping an eye out for others. Summer of 2017 I spotted one North of Suttle Lake on the East side of FS 12 halfway between Hwy 22, where FS 12 starts, and Jack Creek. This is quite a large tree, about 36" dbh, so it is easily spotted from the road even tho its 150-200 feet off the road's edge.

In 2017 the tree base still had bark and appears to be a Ponderosa Pine.
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Argyle Pattern.
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Base of Argyle Tree with Bark.
I haven't seen a good explanation for the cross hatching. I kinda doubt mistletoe, because mistletoe causes a localized swelling where the mistletoe roots penetrate the host plant's tissue. On both these trees the cross hatching runs the length of the trunk.


Burnside
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adamschneider
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by adamschneider » December 16th, 2019, 11:16 pm

DannyH wrote:
December 16th, 2019, 7:41 pm
I saw an Argyle Tree very similar to the Elk Meadow Tree in the Boulder Creek wilderness along the Umpqua River last spring
That one's interesting because the marks are very much in the form of individual "X"s. Maybe that's how it starts?

(Oh, and I don't think I buy the mistletoe theory.)

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CyrusK.
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by CyrusK. » December 17th, 2019, 7:48 am

Yeah I wasn’t sure about the mistletoe, it just fit the pattern that most of the Argyle trees were found on the east side in the rain shadow (and that I noticed several mistletoe-infected trees nearby). The second theory (that the tree twisting in the wind as it grows causes spiral lines of stress, then at some point the tree twists back, causing tears or warping in the trunk, which the tree then heals over) might be more plausible, but doesn’t explain the smaller, erratic x’s on some of the trees.
Last edited by CyrusK. on December 28th, 2019, 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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adamschneider
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by adamschneider » December 17th, 2019, 9:21 am

By searching for "dead tree," "snag," and "x pattern," I found a 2015 thread on "The Forestry Forum" about argyle trees, which includes a picture of one in the Wenatchee Mountains: https://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=87395.0

No one there knew what it was either. Of course, given that it was foresters, they all wanted to see what it looked like at the sawmill. :)

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OregonSurveyor
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by OregonSurveyor » December 17th, 2019, 9:36 am

I’m as puzzled as anyone! I’ve seen this a few times in the Mt Hood NF, including the one headed into Elk Meadows. The only information I can add is, “Maybe it’s more common than we are realizing, and it only reveals itself when the snag sheds its bark?”
Maybe we are walking by unrevealed ones all the time.
We should be keeping GPS coordinates and photos of all we see.
Jerry King
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CyrusK.
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by CyrusK. » December 17th, 2019, 10:40 am

Good idea, let's try and find out where the photos were taken. They're clearly more common than expected. Also, I wonder if the recent burn zones have revealed more.
Cyrus "Ice" K.

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adamschneider
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Re: Elk Meadows and the Argyle Tree

Post by adamschneider » December 17th, 2019, 11:17 am

The only one I've personally photographed had fallen down to the bottom of Toketee Falls: 43.26339,-122.43323

Enough people have seen the Elk Meadows one that surely we can get coordinates for that one. (I'm pretty sure I've seen it, but I guess I didn't take a picture.)

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