I saw Greggo's recent beautiful sunrise picture and post about the recent marriage and move of his son shortly before my bluebird trail cleansing Sunday and while browsing onto parts of my land I don't see routinely, I happened across a large reminder of my own son.
This Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) was planted, as I recall, when my son was about a 4th grader, or about 14 years ago. He came home excited from school with the gift of a small seedling tree for his father, provided to him during a demonstration by some local foresters at school. When we planted it, down near the pond, it was approximately 4 inches tall and I protected it then, and still protect it, by mowing the tall grass around it every summer so that the lower branches don't catch fire during a Spring prairie burn. The pine overlooks a small fishing dock that we built together and from which I used to watch him fish the small bass in the farm pond. You could call this area and this pine my "memory bank" of my then young son.
Now towering over 10 feet tall, it is healthy as can be, either resistant to the pine wilt disease that has run rampant all over central Kansas in recent years, or more likely, just lucky. Certainly, the disease incidence seems tied to drought and high summer temperatures and we've had enough of those lately to stress this one to the limit. I knew about pine wilt even as I planted the tree with my enthusiastic son. You would have thought that the foresters knew better in the late-90's than to give a bunch of kids a susceptible tree to plant, but I guess they didn't. Most of the pines in Manhattan have died of the disease over the past decade, so perhaps the disease has passed my son's tree by and moved on without a reservoir of susceptible trees around. I had hopes that its isolation, about a mile from landscaped Scotch pines in town, would save it from pine wilt and the associated Sawyer beetles and nematodes, but I was discouraged recently to read that pine wilt disease usually only attacks trees that are more than 10 years old. So it is possible that I've protected this tree through childhood and young adulthood and I still might lose it soon. Just when I thought we were beyond the danger.
I was surprised recently to see that the tree has made it to puberty and now develops pine cones, as pictured at the left. I'm hoping that the development of pine cones is not a sign, since the tree and my son seem to have matured at the same rate, that Mrs. ProfessorRoush's dreams of grandchildren are to be fulfilled anytime soon. I'm happy to plant a few seemingly wilt-resistant Scotch pine offspring around, but this gardener is not ready for grandfatherhood. I'm not nearly that old or cantankerous yet.