Chapter 5 - Managing Spirit and Traditions

Troop Leader Development

This section describes the phase and patrol traditions and symbols which have typically been used with Troop Leader Development from one year to the next.

Phase Traditions

B-P's Letter to a Patrol Leader See the handout, Letter to a Patrol Leader New Browser Window.
Phase Yell "Augi, Augi, Augi"
Phase song "Come Scouts". See Phase Song: "Come Scouts.
Quiet Hour A time to update notebooks, work on Turks' head neckerchief slides, etc. May not actually last an hour.
Turks Head neckerchief slide, also called a "woggle" See Turk's Head Neckerchief Slide.
White Stag beret patch A small 1"x2" patch affixed to each member's beret. as shown at left.
Waist rope See Waist Ropes.
Name plate Made of native materials
Phase color Used for shoulder colors on uniform tabs.
Trek A challenging 2-3 day back country back pack trip.
Feast A troop-wide meal planned and managed by the candidate leadership.
Red Hornets Red marbles, passed from person to person secretly, owner arbitrarily rewarded by Phase Advisor either positively or negatively. For example, the patrol may all receive a candy bar, or be asked to police the morning ceremony site.
Run, Rouse and Dip (RR&D) A morning run, led by "Tinkerbell"; all members wear swim trunks, tennis shoes and a towel around their neck. All run a mile or so and then jump in the pool, lake, and so forth.

Phase Song: "Come Scouts"

(To the tune for the Notre Dame fight song.)

Come Scouts, for we're off today,
Hiking to hilltops far, far away.
With the White Stag leaping high,
We'll reach the summit by and by.

What though the trail be hard and long,
You'll always hear us singing our song.
Ever loyal to the White Stag,
On-ward for leadership!

Hike! Hike! Hike!

Phase Yell

Call and respond with wild enthusiasm:

Leader Augi! Augi! Augi!
Group Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!
Leader Augi! Augi! Augi!
Group Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!
Leader Augi!
Group Ugh!
Leader Augi!
Group Ugh!
Leader Augi! Augi! Augi!
Group Augi! Augi! Augi!

Phase Symbols

Program patrol Their symbol: the Kudu horn. Selected at morning ceremony. Responsible for performing flag ceremony that night and following morning.

As a Colonel in Africa in 1896, Lord Baden Powell and his men were on a raid down the Shangani river. They were puzzled at how quickly the alarm was spread among the Matabele warriors. They later found that the Matabele were using a war yorn of tremendous sound-carrying power. A code existed, and as soon as the enemy was sighted, the alarm would be sounded. This war horn turned out to be the horn of the African antelope, the Kudu (Tregelaphus strepsiceros).

The Kudu horn, 25-40 inches long, was first used in Scouting to summon the scouts at Brownsea Island in 1907. It (or a substitute) is now used in all U.S. Wood Badge courses.

Kudu watering hole
Service patrol Their symbol: the Quartermaster broken shovel. Selected at morning ceremony. Responsible for raking and watering the morning ceremony area after ceremony and before next day’s ceremony.
Berets Each patrols' members wears a distinctive colored beret. The youth staff wears maroon berets; the adult staff`s traditional color is bright blue.

Patrol Traditions

Each patrol is to develop:

Instill first day:

Patrol Naming Ceremony

The intent of this ceremony is to provide the individual Patrol Advisors with a history, under-standing and background of the patrols, in order that they may provide and distill the same under-standing and pride into the candidate's and their identification with their crews.

The ceremony is planned to take place the night previous to Candidate-Day in the spring time. It will begin about 1l:00 pm, an hour before taps, at the C-Day site. (This ceremony, although written for Phase III, can be adapted for any of the patrols.)

At a suitable location, the youth staff will be called together to witness the naming of their fellow Patrol Counselors. The Advisor might speak the following words:

It is singularly significant that the most advanced program of leadership development for young adults is conducted in western North America where grow the tallest of all forest trees, unequaled in size or majestic splendor anywhere else on earth.
Trees have always been intimately absorbed into the life and progress of the people living among them. The canoe cedar was a way of life to the Alaskan Indian and the mesquite was the cornerstone of the desert dweller's economy. The coast Indians used acorns in a number of ways, and their mortar stones abound in the forest around Camp Pico Blanco.
The distinguished English patriot and philosopher, John Evelyn, said in 1664, "Men seldom plant trees 'till they begin to be wise, until they grow old, and find, by experience, the pru-dence and necessity of it."
Very appropriately the oldest level of White Stag candidates organize themselves into patrols during a memorable week together, each of which is identified by the name of a tree indigenous to the Little Sur area. They include Madrone, Fir, Sycamore, Tanbark, California Buckeye, Sugar Pine, Live Oak, Redwood, Bay Laurel, and Maple. Use the descriptions beginning with Madrone to help instill a sense of pride in their name.

The script continues:

Trees are a part of a vibrantly complex, interwoven community of many forms of life, each struggling together and against one another to survive and perpetuate their spe-cies. Trees, like people, must have air, light, heat, water and food. Having once taken root, the tree struggles continuously to shoulder its way upward towards the sun and light. Those that strive the hardest prosper and grow taller while the less vigorous, cut off from sunlight, wither and even-tually die.
Like trees, we must strive to reach higher, not in competition with our neighbors for a lim-ited resource, but with ourselves, against the possibility of limiting our own growth and achievement when we have potential for doing and learning more.

The patrol counselor ought to utilize the information on each of the trees for which a patrol is named and any additionally facts and lore to dramatize the patrol name and provide some special rapport and pride within each of the patrols. For instance, the fir patrol might evolve a ritual involving the sipping of Fir tea, or the passing of their berets through Fir smoke. Use your imagination.

Then, in turn, each of the Patrol Counselors is called forward, and the information and lore about their respective trees is read to them. When this has been completed, the ceremony is concluded with a few final words:

It is your challenge now to fill the candidates with the spirit that inhabits each of us and is represented by the trees that symbolize the worldliness and natural place that we have in the world, in the enduring knowledge we have to give. Give them an experience tomorrow that will bring them back to the week with their friends in their troop, that will allow them to go home and apply what they have learned.

The patrol names reflect the area the camp is held in. There is room in the forest for all kinds of trees as there is a place for all people.

Patrol Names

The names for patrols in TLD include:


(Arbutus menjiesii)

The madrone received its name in 1769 from the first white man ever to see it, Father Juan Crespi, who was the chronicler for the Portola expedition looking for the looking for the 'lost bay' of Monterey. "Madrone" refers to the Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) a Mediterranean sister species that Father Crespi knew well.

Sometimes called madrana, it is a Stout, straight tree, attaining a height of 100 feet and is 4-5 feet in diameter at times. A characteristic feature of the madrone is the smooth bark which eventually peels away in papery strips to reveal various colors according to the relative age of the tree or branch. The wood seasons well, is heavy, hard, strong, dose "rained, light brown, takes fine finish, and is used for furniture, for flooring, for making shutters and producing charcoal. The smooth colorful bark is sometimes used in tanning leather.

The dense clusters of small, white waxy bell-shaped flowers hanging on the twig ends, produce edible orange-red berries. They are eaten fresh or cooked with hot stones in water in a cooking basket, then dried and stored until rehydrated with warm water. An infusion brewed from the root, bark or leaves, was used by early settlers to prepare a lotion to speed the healing of sores and cuts on men and horses. The Spanish settlers used Madrone wood for stirrups and the early Californians prepared their gun powder from Madrone charcoal.

Arbutus menjiesii can be found at about 50 north latitude on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. South from this region it is widespread in the lowlands west of the Cascade range and scattered in sites of the Sierra Nevada. It can also be found as far south as San Diego County. Elevation limits range from sea-level to 1524-1829 m (6000 feet).

The Pacific madrone grows on many types of soil in various climatic environments, occupying sites where the average rainfall ranges from as little as 15 inches to as much as 150 inches a year. Once established, this broad leaf evergreen is very resistant to drought and high temperatures as well as freezing wet conditions. It is fairly tolerant of shade and often found in the understory of oak and coniferous forests preferably establishing on sites where the coniferous forest does not readily close in. The life cycle of the madrone offers a kaleidoscope of colors to admire. In midsummer, as the hillsides get partly dry and moisture is at a premium, the old leaves, bright scarlet in color by now, gradually drop off while the bright-green, new leaves emerge.

By Judy Anderson, 1978


(Pseudotsuga menziesii)

The Douglas-fir is a clear, straight-trunked tree with a spire-like crown rising up to 300' tall. The fresh, bright green needles are flat with two white stripes below, forming a spiral on the twig. This trident-like protruding knot distinguishes the Douglas-fir from all other conifers.

The tree is very widespread in the western United States and produces more wood products than any other American tree. It is the world's most commercially valuable conifer. Its wood is used for lumber, piling, plywood, fuel, railroad ties, mine timbers, foxes, boats, and ladders; the tree is planted for shade, as an ornamental, and to make wind and shelter belts.

Smooth, gray-brown, with gummy resin-filled blisters when young, the bark becomes very thick with age and deeply grooved, with dark reddish-brown ridges. The needles are flat with a pointed tip. The upper surface is bright yellowish-green with a single groove down the center; the lower surface is paler. The needles appear to stand out around the twig. Its cones are 5 to 11 centimeters long, turning from green to grey as they mature. Between each scale, long three-pronged bracts are easily seen. Seeds are winged at the tip.

A hot coffee-like beverage was made by the Indians and pioneers from the young needles of the Douglas-fir. The Indians are said to relieve rheumatism by having the patient lie for as long as half a day on a blanket spread over Fir boughs placed on top of hot rocks in the sweat house. In order to secure success for the hunter, his bow and arrow were passed through the smoke of Douglas Fir boughs while singing an incantation.

The genus name comes from the Greek word pseudo, meaning false, and the Japanese, tsuga, or yew-leafed tree, because of its similarity to the hemlock-spruce family. Menziesii comes from Dr. Archibald Menzies, who was a physician and naturalist with Captain Vancauven's voyage, and who discovered the tree in 1791. Because the Douglas-fir is not a true fir, the common name is hyphenated. It was named after David Douglas, the Scottish botanist who in 1827 send the first seeds to Europe, subsequently introducing many of western north America's native conifers to Europe.

By Judy Anderson, 1978


(Platanus racemosa)

The Latin name for Sycamore comes from "platanus" meaning "plane tree," the ancient ancestor of the sycamore. "Racemosa" refers to the fruit which grows in clusters of one to six on a single stem. Racemosa means growing in groups."

This tree is characterized by very thin, smooth, whitish or pale green bark on young trees and on the large branches of old trees, exposing cream to tan inner bark. The inner bark when exposed in this way is pale olive green first and turns chalky white later. Thin veneer-like sheets of the bark are usually shed as a result of the diameter growth of the stems. On lower, older trunks the bark is dark brown and furrowed. American sycamore is a large deciduous tree that grows at the edges of swamps, lakes and streams, and in low bottom lands. The leaves of sycamore are large, simple, alternate and palmately lobed and veined. At the base of the petiole is a leaf-like stipule which often persists through the summer.

The sycamore has an ancient origin. Species similar to present day sycamore existed in Greenland, in the Arctic region, in middle Europe, and the central part of North America during the Tertiary epoch.

The California sycamore is usually 40-60' tall although those found in canyons reach a height of 80'. They grow quite old because they repair damage to their crowns and trunks rapidly.

The sycamore is used in interior finishing and in cabinet work, however their commercial value is really secondary. The Sycamore mainly forms protective growth along streams m dry, arid regions. The wood is distinctively "cross-grained" and exceedingly difficult to split.5

By Judy Anderson, 1978


(Lithocarpus densiflanus)

There is not a more admirable hard wood in all the west than the Tanbark, or Tan Oak, a tree with a magnificent bole and sumptuous foliage; evergreen and darkly glittering above and a beautiful silvery white below. The evergreen leaves are three to five inches long, 3/4-3" long. At maturity the leaves are thick and leathery, the upper surface is light green and shining, the lower surface is pale bluish with touches of the furry reddish fuzz which coats the new young leaves.

Tanbark trees of 70 to 90 feet in height are found frequently, though some growing in competition with redwood trees attain 150 feet. The striking stature of this tree comes from the great central trunk that rises, mast-like, giving off spirals of mighty branches. In the forest, the trunk is bare of branches a long way, with a very long, narrow crown. Trees growing in the open have short massive boles and branches almost to the base, which sweep boldly out, giving the tree an appearance of permanence and solidity. Young trees have mottled pale grayish and smooth bark; old trees are ruggedly checked into plates and outwardly brown, though the inside bark has a reddish tint. The bark of the older tree is thick, firm, dark gray and cut by narrow seams and cross-checked into broad smooth square-shaped plates. Twigs at first have a dense but deciduous wool of reddish hairs, later smooth and deep brown tinged with red.

Acorns are solitary or in pairs on a downy stout stalk that is -1" long. The nut is light yellow-brown, shining and smooth after losing the fuzziness of its early stages. It is -1" long, -1" thick, seated in a shallow cup covered on the outside by rigid scales. Long erect spikes (catkins) of white flowers light up the tree like candles at Christmas and the acorn stands erect in its handsome furry cup. These acorns were used by the Indians of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties for making a flour which was then cooked into a mush. It had to be ground, then washed in several waters, to extract the bitterness. For this reason, pioneers used to call this the Squaw Oak.

The bark used to a valuable tanning agent in the production of high grade heavy leather. It has been replaced by cheaper imported tanning agents. The tan oak now left undisturbed may grow for a full tally of years, perhaps 500, seldom troubled even by the lumber man. The fine hard wood which might be used for furniture cannot be profitably logged owing to the inaccessibility of the scattered trees.

By Judy Anderson, 1978

California Buckeye

(Aesculus californica)

The Buckeye is one of the showiest and most beautiful of the native trees. In the months of May and June, it is characterized by great masses of creamy-white flowers that appear on long spikes. The leaves dry and fall off in early fall, leaving a silvery trunk and branches upon which the fruits hang thick, looking like so many dry plump figs.

A short tree or large shrub, rarely reaching 9 m (30 feet) in height. The trunk is short, enlarged at the base. The bark is light to pale gray, thick and nearly smooth. Winter buds are very sticky, cone-shaped, pointed at the tip and covered with narrow, pointed overlapping dark brown scales. The tree is often shrubby in dry chaparral areas but on fertile soils may reach a height of 40 feet.

The flowers are often so numerous that they give the rounded crown of the tree the appearance of a great candelabra with thousands of white candles. It is characterized by bright green palmately compound leaves with serrated edges.

Aesculus californica occurs exclusively in California where it grows in the humid coastal belt, eastward to the Sacramento Valley and south to northern Los Angeles county at elevations ranging from 150 - 1,250 m. California buckeye does best in the coastal range canyons, north of San Francisco but they also grow on moist stream borders and in dry, gravel soils on sides of canyons. It is often used as a street tree or ornamental tree.

The fruit was used among many of the indigenous people for food through a complex system of roasting, grinding, leaching, and drying to remove the tannin and alkaloid elements. The process took several days and the resulting mush was eaten fairly soon after preparation. The fruit was also crushed, then floated in streams to stupefy fish which were taken in coarse nets or by hand.

By Judy Anderson, 1978

Sugar Pine

(Pinus lambertiana)

The great genus Pinus stretches around the north temperate zone and on mountains far into the tropics, numbering some 80 species. Many of them are of the highest use or the greatest beauty, and attain splendid proportions. But there is one species, the Sugar Pine, that towers above them all. It is the king of pines, undisputed in its monarchy over all others. It is the fourth greatest in size of all American trees, surpassed only by the two Sequoias and Douglas Fir. It can attain a height of 61 m (200 feet) with a trunk circumference of 8.1 m (31 feet).

The trunk of the sugar pine rises straight in columns the color of the yellow green staghorn lichen, with tufts colored a rich purplish brown. The incense of its needles fills the forest. Young sugar pines are slender, close-grown, and conical in shape. In winter their limbs easily shed the snow, never breaking under the weight. The lower branches of this pine self- prune with the result that these pines have few limbs and a large bole of branches. At the top of the long stem an old Sugar Pine bears a palm-like crown, sometimes storm racked and rugged. From the underside of the foliage, hang the swaying, slender cones, 15-26" long, green shaded with dark purple on the sunward side.

The Sugar Pine takes its name from its sweet, gummy exudations. They are in the shape of irregular, crisp kernels, which are crowded together in large masses. From the earliest days of settlement in the Sierra foothills, the Sugar Pine was cut in preference to any other because of its fragrant wood with its lightness, satin texture, close grain, ease of working, and ability to take a fine polish. Early roofs were covered with shake shingles made wastefully by hand from these trees.

As sawmills made their appearances, the Sugar Pine was cut into lumber to provide siding for buildings and barns, for flumes, sluice looses, bridges, fences and mine props. Being lighter and softer than other pines, it soon became the most used of the pines. Its straight grain qualifies it for use as the pipes of church organs, for which few woods are at all satisfactory. Roused by words from John Muir, the stands of Sugar Pine are being more carefully guarded by the government. At the present time the cut is still well in excess of the natural replacement.

By Mary Pyott


(Sequoia sempervirens)

Redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, are tall, narrow trees 65-100 meter (213-328 feet), rarely to 114 meters. The trunk is straight, slightly flaring, buttressed at the base, 3-5 m in diameter, rarely 10 m. The lower third of the tree is branchless. The bark is thick, 15-30 cm, dark brown with grayish tinge and deeply furrowed with rounded ridges of long, fibrous scales. The bright deep yellowish-green leaves are small and linear, (0.6-2 cm) long, spreading in two ranks, flat sharp-pointed, slightly curved. Male cones are tiny, oblong whereas female cones are tiny, egg-shaped, scattered near the ends of the branchlets. The fruits are small, hard cones, 1.9-2.5 cm long, oblong brown, and composed of 12-20 scales.

Coast redwood occur only in a narrow, fog-laden belt in the Pacific Coastal region of southwestern Oregon and northern to central California. They usually grow on low protected flats, along rivers, or in river deltas of the moist coastal plain. Humid conditions, caused by frequent fogs sweeping in from the sea and deep, well-drained soils are essential for maximum development.

Coast redwood can occur in pure stands or in association with western hemlock, Douglas fir, tanbark oak, grand fir, and western red cedar. H the topography is flat, pure stands are common whereas if the slope is inclined, a mixture of tree species are more common. They are relatively free of insect pests and disease, although heartrot sometimes occurs. The tree grows well in low light intensities and reach maturity in 400-500 years, although most live to twice that age. The oldest tree on record is 2,200 years old. Seed production can occur when the tree is 20 years old but is higher if the tree is much older. They are prolific seed producers but with a higher percentage of bad seeds. New sprouts will develop quickly from the stump and root crown of recently cut trees. The lumber is of high quality because the wood is straight-gained, knot free, durable, termite resistant, and easily worked. Because of its size, the tree can have yields of 2.5 million board of feet of lumber per acre.

The redwood is named for a native American leader, chief Sequoyah, who never saw the tree but was immortalized for his achievement in the creation of a Cherokee alphabet, among other accomplishments. The tree has been dated back to the Cretaceous period, one hundred million years ago, when it was common throughout the Northern Hemisphere in present day Japan, Himalayas, and western Europe. With the advance of the glaciers, the tree became restricted to western North America.

The coast redwood requires at least 25 inches of rainfall to survive and at least double of that for optimum growth. Fog provides up to 50 in of additional water to the redwood as well as retarding evaporation in the summer. The coast redwood do not have a central water seeking tap root found in other trees, instead it has several main roots, not deeper than six feet, fed by worm-like filaments that rise one or two feet from the ground surface. These roots have a remarkable ability to regenerate themselves if cut. The network of filaments satisfy the redwood's lifetime need for one thousand tons of water for each ton of its weight.

Longevity of the tree can be attributed to several factors including resistance to fire, insects and fungal disease.

By Chan Phommosaysy

Bigleaf Maple

(Acer macrophyllum)

Bigleaf Maple grows in the foothill borders, near low mountain streams, and the largest trees are found in alluvial river bottoms in moist, gravel, and rich soils. It is found as far north as the extreme southeastern coast of Alaska and British Columbia and south into California. In California, Bigleaf Maples are found in the coast ranges and the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, as far south as the San Bernardino Mountains and in Hot Springs Valley in San Diego County.

The genus Acer includes about 100 species of trees and shrubs, mostly in eastern Asia of which 35 species are native to China end Japan. There are 28 species in the U.S and Canada, four of which occur in the Pacific Coast. Bigleaf Maple is the only maple species in the Pacific Northwest that becomes a medium to large-size tree. It is more closely related to some of the European maples than to North American species due to the effects of the Ice Ages on the distribution of the plants. This species may form dense pure stands but it is more commonly found in association with Douglas fir, Western Hemlock, Vine Maple, Redwoods, Willows, and Live Oak.

Growth is rapid for the first 40-50 years, then slows as the trees approach a maximum age of about 275 years. Trees typically reach 50-60 feet high, the canopy stretching about as wide. Larger trees can obtain a height of 98 feet or more. The tree flowers in April or May, with the winged seed maturing by autumn. Squirrels, chipmunks, mice, evening grosbeaks, and many other birds eat the seeds. Blacktail deer, mule deer, and elk fed on saplings, young twigs, and leaves. Bigleaf Maples are an important resource of hardwood lumber in the Northwest. The light-brown wood is used for furniture, paneling, cabinets, musical instruments, and veneer. The knobby outgrowth or burl produced by older trees are prized in veneer work for its interesting configuration.

Coast Live Oak

(Quercus agrifolia)

The Coast Live Oak occurs in moist areas with deep soil. It grows in open groves of canyon bottoms, valleys, and on north-facing slopes. It is often found growing with the Golden Cup Oak (Quercus chrysolepis) and the California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii). The Coast Live Oak can be found generally among the coast ranges from central to southern California, on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands, and into northern Baja California. It usually grows from sea level up to about 3000 feet.

The Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) is an angiosperm tree of the family Fagaceae. It is an evergreen tree with a stout trunk and many crooked branches that spread outwards. It is sometimes shrubby but not as often. It's height can range from 30-80 feet with a trunk diameter of 1 to 3 feet or greater. The leaves of the oak are alternate on the branches, elliptical in shape, and its edges are generally curved under to produce a boat shape. Leaf shape may be quite variable between old and new growth. The leaf coloration is a shiny green on the surface and a yellow-green beneath. There are two varieties of the coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia var. agrifolia and Quercus agrifolia var. oxyadenia. The bark is a dark brown, can become rather thick, and is widely ridged.

The live oak is wind pollinated. The method of pollination of all wind pollinated trees is quite interesting. The female flowers are on the ends of the new growth. Since the tree is electrically grounded to the surface, the outermost edges of the tree is the most electrostatically negative (the female flowers). Pollen grains on the other hand are electrostatically positive. As a result, pollen grains carried through the air by the wind are attracted to the negative charge of the female flower and literally jump to the stigmatic surface when they are in range. This eliminates mere chance in the pollination of these trees.

The Coast Live Oak was one of the first trees to be described in California. It was first noted by the Spaniards of the Malaspina Expedition in 1791 and was referred to by them as encina from the evergreen oak of the Mediterranean. The history of the oak dates back even further. In 1770, Junipero Serra landed at Monterey Bay and planted his cross under a great Live Oak near the shore. It was there that he gave his first mass and founded San Carlos Mission. The mission moved to Carmel, but the oak remained as the first Christianized spot in that region of California. In many ways, the Coast Live Oak represents country living in southern California. Many cities have incorporated the tree into the urbanization of their communities. These include Sherman Oaks and Thousand Oaks.

The wood of the Coast Live Oak is strong but is not commonly used to furnish due to its strange growth patterns and frequent branching near the base. It is an excellent wood for fuel because it has a high heat value. It produces an intense and steady flame and gives out a sweet odor. Due to its value as a fuel source, it was used in the days of sailing ships. The oak woodlands were cut in response to high demand from the ships as well as from people settling into the oak woodlands.

Individuals of Coast Live Oak are commonly infested by a species of mistletoe. The oak mistletoe (Phoradendron villosum ssp. villosum) has been described on the Coast Live Oak as well as on two other California oaks (Q. lobata and Q. douglasii). Each species of these oaks have been thought to represent different ecological habitats for the mistletoe.

By David Moskovitz

Sugar Pine

(Pinus lambertiana)

Sugar Pine is the tallest of all pines, often reaching heights of 61m (200 feet). In 1991, the California state champion measured 216 ft. tall with a circumference at 4----3/4" or 384 inches. Its natural range extends from Oregon to Mexico, but over 80 percent of the trees are found in California. Sugar pine is found in the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, coast ranges, and the Transverse and Peninsular ranges, from elevations near sea level to over 3000 m (10,000 feet). Sugar pine is considered a very important timber species due to the quality and value of its soft, even-grained wood.

Sugar pines tend not to dominate forest types, but rather are found growing with many other species. In the northern mountains some of its associates include Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, grand fir and incense cedar. In the Sierra it is found with Jeffrey pine, Giant Sequoia, and California Black Oak. In fact, the most dense populations of sugar pine are found on the western slopes of the Sierras. In the southern mountains sugar pines grow with Ponderosa pine, coulter pine, white fir and incense cedar. Sugar pines grow best in deep, sandy loam soils, and they prefer warm dry summers and cool wet winters.

Sugar pine is an evergreen conifer, distinguished by silvery-lined bluish green needles, five to a bundle. Mature trees have large asymmetrical branches that are bent downward at the tips by long cones. These cones are the largest of any pine species, frequently up to 56 cm (22 inches) in length and weighing four pounds when green. It takes two years for sugar pines to produce cones, and they typically drop their seeds from August to October in the second season. Although sugar pines produce significant crops of cones every three years, over 50 percent of the seeds produced are unsound. Many animals such as the sugar pine cone beetle, Douglas squirrel and white-headed woodpecker consume or cache these seeds and only up to 40 percent of the seeds develop into seedlings. Those that survive can grow to be 500 years old.

In the past, sugar pine was important for indigenous peoples, who used the seeds and bark for food, the rootlets for baskets, the pitch for glue and gum, and the leaves and bark to make medicinal teas. John Muir found its sweet resin preferable to maple sugar.

Although sugar pine is ozone tolerant, it is not very drought tolerant. Sugar pine is declining due to its high susceptibility to white pine blister rust, a disease that infects seedlings and kills them as cankers girdle the main stem. Natural regeneration is thus curtailed in heavily infected areas. Introduced at the turn of the century in Oregon, white pine blister rust began infecting northern California sugar pines sixty years ago, where the intensity of infection still remains the highest. A small percent of the trees carry resistance genes and work is underway to further develop blister rust resistant stock. In the meantime, increasing scarcity of high-grade sugar pine trees has led to an increase in timber value.

Today, impressively large sugar pines can be seen growing in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Wandering around the magnificent groves, you can understand why John Muir called sugar pine the "Queen of the Sierras."

By Mary Pyott

Giant Sequoia

(Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Over millions of years of warming summers and cooling winters, the ancestors of the giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees ant their relatives--the coast redwood of northern California and the metasequoia of southern China--all but disappeared from their ranges in northern Europe and North America. They grew restricted to areas with more reliable summer moisture.

Seventy-five groves of the giant Sequoia exist today in California on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada from Placer County to southern Tulare County. The groves occur between elevations of 1370-2560 m (4500 to 8400 feet) and range in size from 1 to 4000 acres. Giant Sequoias are considered to be pioneer species. They require fires intense enough to remove the forest litter and kill a portion of the forest canopy for successful regeneration.

Sequoia cones are serotinous, releasing seed only when subjected to extreme heat. Each seed that is released from the 2-3 inch cones is very light (about 91,000 seeds equal one pound m weight). A mature tree will produce on average about 2000 cones per year, each cone containing an average of 230 seeds.

Sequoias are shade intolerant and will rarely establish under the canopy. A gap in the canopy resulting from a tree fall or fire is necessary for the seedling to obtain essential sunlight. Because they are much less drought tolerant than associated forest trees, the Sequoia seedling must become established before the typically dry Sierran summer.

Most of the moisture required throughout the year is obtained from snow melt. While the tree is a seedling, the root systems must be quickly established to sufficient depth, so root growth is substantially more rapid than shoot growth. Once the tree is established, above ground growth occurs relatively fast.

Giant Sequoias will grow 45-75+ m tall and average 1.5-9.0+ m in diameter depending on age and annual moisture. The stump of the first Big Tree to fall by the hands of man in 1853 was 29.2 m (96 feet) in circumference and once supported 32 dancers, onlookers, and the band at a cotillion party. The three largest trees existing today can be found at Sequoia and Rings National Parks.

The oldest known fallen tree has approximately 3300 annual growth rings. Observation of the lack of regeneration in one grove led to a prediction that extinction could occur within 1000 years. But others argue that with a life span of 2000 - 3000 years it is possible that one good seeding year would be sufficient for maintaining the grove.

The longevity of these titans is largely due to their high resistance towards fire, insects, and diseases. The thick, fibrous, cinnamon-red bark contains tannin, a natural fire extinguisher, which also is suspected to inhibit wood borers and fungi. The loss of lower branches reduces the fire ladder effect when there is a lack of understory trees. Although basal hollows caused by fires are common (often serving as dens for wildlife), they are rarely detrimental to the tree's existence.

Logging of the giant redwoods was vast in the late 1800's when acres of trees, including the Converse Basin Grove in present-day Sequoia National Park (probably the largest and finest), were devastated. The wood was used for shingles and fences but finally considered to be too brittle. Since a large majority of the groves are now under the protection of national and state parks, logging is not an imminent concern.

The Big Tree is nature's finest masterpiece...the greatest of all living things, it belongs to an ancient stock and has a strange air of another day about it, a thoroughbred look inherited from long ago--the Auld Lang Syne of trees.

--John Muir

Giant Sequoias provide well-preserved fire records dating back to 500 AD. The oldest fire scar found dates a fire that occurred in 1125 BC. According to dendrochronological analysis by Thomas Swetnam (1993), fire frequency was fairly constant over many centuries, however around 1860 there appears to be a sharp decline in fire occurrences. Introduced sheep stock grazing, fire suppression, and decreased setting of fires by Native Americans are widely thought to be the causes.

The name Sequoia was chosen to honor Sequoyah, a member of the Cherokee nation, who invented an 86 character Cherokee alphabet and taught his people to read and write their own language. The giant Sequoias or Ancient Ones are highly significant in the community and culture of the Tule River Tribe. The youth learn a spiritual way to gain knowledge through fasting, holding sweats, and praying for the Ancient Ones to pass on knowledge of past generations.

By Sandra Klepadlos

Copyright © 1981— , Brian Phelps. All rights reserved. Short portions may be excerpted for review and quotes. For copyright purposes, only introductory portions of this book are available online. Order the newest edition today.