Nature Notes

Vol. IV January 1, 1927 No. 15


Often during the summer the Nature Guides are asked the question, "Why do all the branches of the alpine trees grow downward?" Altho it is not the answer given by the naturalists, we have heard it answered thus: "The alpine trees point their branches downward so that the snows of winter will slip off to the ground and thus the branch will not be broken by the accumulating weight". Trees are not that intelligent perhaps but the answer is true, if reversed. The branches bend down because throughout all their life they have had to shed the loads of snow. We have a tremendous snowfall in the upper valleys, sometimes totaling a hundred feet in a winter, and the trees carry tons of it on their branches. Gradually they bend under the weight and the snow slips to the ground. As the depth becomes greater the branches are imprisoned. New fallen snow settlers in time to only a fraction of its first depth, a hundred feet become twenty-five in the spring. The imprisoned branches are carried downward with the settling snow until they are bound tightly against the parent trunk, thus they are held for man months of each year and altho they grown upward during the summer the time is not sufficient for them to entirely recover from the effects of winter.

The same is true of trees growing upon steep hillsides. Most trees so located grown downward at the base then turn upward in a graceful curve forming a "goose-neck" at the bottom. The reason is that the heavy snows on the hillsides gradually settle downward carrying the young trees with them until the trees are prostrate upon the ground and the snow slides over them. Thus they are held for several months. When summer comes the trees grow upward at the tip until finally they have righted themselves and are sufficiently sturdy to withstand the weight of snow, but they never lose the curve at the base of their trunks.

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