By Wendy Langhans
Just ask anyone who lives here – it’s not a secret – we live in a valley buffeted by winds. The winds could be “onshore or offshore”, “upslope or downslope”; we even give them one of them a name, the (in)famous “Santa Ana” winds. Winds can cause damage, varying in severity from a nuisance – scattering paper plates off a picnic table – to real trouble – downed power lines sparking a wildfire. If it gets too windy, we can always take the party indoors. But what about trees? How do they cope with winds? What protects them (for the most part) from uprooting or snapping off?
Let’s start at rock bottom – the roots. One of their functions is to keep the tree upright. To visualize this, think of the fasteners found in a hardware store. Tap roots are like nails, they grow deep into the soil. The longer the nail, the stronger the connection. Lateral roots spread out from the tap root, helping to keep the tap root in place, much like the threads on a screw. These lateral roots also produce sinker roots, that grow down into the ground, like multiple screws on a door hinge.
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Moving up a bit, we come to the trunk of the tree. Notice how the tree trunk tapers – the base of the truck is thicker than the top. That’s because the bending force is strongest at the base. Remember the last time you walked directly into a strong wind. You spread your feet apart, right?
Moving up even higher, we come to the branches and the leaves. Branches and leaves repond aerodynamically to the wind by changing their shape to streamline their profile and minimize drag. Tree branches bend away from the wind, much like the windshield on a car slopes backwards. To see this bending in action, check out this short video. Leaves also change their shape. Lobed leaves and leaves with longer petioles (stems) have less drag and are “reconfigured into cones”. Trees with pinnate leaves, such as walnut, formed cylinders of layered leaflets.
But modern-day botanists and meteorologists are not the only ones who’ve studied the winds and trees. Poets have too, as we see in this poem, “Who has Seen the Wind”, written by the 19th century poet Christina Rossetti:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, June 8, 6:30-8:30 PM. Crest to Coast Trail Public Workshop. The Crest to Coast Trail is a joint effort by the City of Santa Clarita, National Park Service, and a host of other agencies and outdoor groups committed to the realization of a non-motorized, natural surface trail linking the diverse cultures, resources, and experiences from the San Gabriel Mountains, through the Santa Clarita Valley, and on to the Pacific Ocean. Learn about the proposed trail and offer feedback on trail route, use, and amenities.
Location: Santa Clarita Activities Center
20880 Centre Pointe Pkwy
Santa Clarita, California 91350
For more information contact Tom Reilly, Parks Planning and Open Space at (661) 255-4394.
Saturday, June 12, 7 – 9 PM, Moonlight Stroll at Towsley Canyon. Wander the trails under our nearly full moon. Uncover which plants and animals are adapted to this transition time and maybe even see a few elusive nocturnal animals. Meet at the Towsley Canyon front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29.
Saturday mornings, June 11 & 25.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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