Short tree syndrome solved!

Good answers from Kenny S., Jimbo, Joe Schalk and Diana!  You were all skirting about the phenomenon of thigmomorphogenesis – or touch-induced change (also discussed in Jeff’s post of January 7.  The tests in the GP’s class are cumulative!).  In this case, the touch is wind.  Edge trees (or corn stalks) are more exposed and receive more wind, resulting in stunted heights and increased trunk diameter (you can’t see this last characteristic in the Friday photo).  Trees in the middle of the stand aren’t exposed to wind buffeting and put their resources into increased height. Similar stunting and thickening can be seen in urban plantings along the edges of sidewalks or anywhere people or animals routinely walk.

I spent my grade school years in a 1950’s housing development that had been Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forest.  The developers left many of the trees standing, and our backyard was full of tall, skinny and isolated Douglas firs.  When the Columbus Day storm (an extratropical cyclone, of all things) hit the Pacific NW in 1962, seven of these trees came down (none hit our house, fortunately).

Now of course a cyclone will take down many trees, regardless of their location…but this continued practice of leaving trees standing alone during development often results in blowdown or breakage of these now unprotected trees. 

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

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