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Leviathan of the Bonsai

Probably just about everyone who has visited Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area has noticed this tree. It may be one of Ohio's most distinctive plants, in part because it is along such a heavily birded corridor, has a very distinctive form, and it is one of few significantly vertical features in an otherwise open landscape.

While birding today at Killdeer, I could not resist the opportunity to do a photo shoot with this gorgeous Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris (all too often mispronounced as "Scotch Pine"). I've driven by this tree myriad times; it has been there as long as I've been birding at Killdeer Plains and that's a long time. If you've been here, you've probably seen it. Jutting from the meadows along the northernmost road of the wildlife area, the pine is visible from afar and draws one's eye. Twisted and gnarled even more than are most Scots Pine, probably due to unmitigated impacts of fierce prairie storms sweeping in from the west, it for all the world resembles an enormous bonsai.

The contorted trunks spire upwards in a mad arrangement, beautified by the stunning yellow-orange tint of the upper bark that is so characteristic of this species.

Scots Pine is not native. It hails from Eurasia, but is fairly common as a landscape tree. This one was likely planted long ago to grace the yard of some old farmstead. Now, it sticks conspicuously from the flatlands like a sylvan beacon; the only tree of substance in the immediate vicinity. I'm sure many an interesting bird has graced its boughs over the years, drawn to the pine's charisma just as are our eyes.


I am always learning something on your blog. For instance I didn't know this tree was "Scots" I thought it was Scotch. I always think of this tree when I use Scotch Tape. They smell about the same so I had it in my mind that the sticky part of the tape might be part of the sticky sap of the tree. I know that is way out there thinking but, I guess I just told you one of my secrets. Ha...

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