City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

November 19, 2016

November 19th

Filed under: Crabapple trees, Guardhouse Gate picnic area, Horsechestnut, Plants, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:37 pm

Where Have All the Crabapples Gone?

Yesterday’s snow has completely melted on the south facing slopes of the canyon, but snow still lingers on the north facing angles and in the most shaded portions of the narrow, lower portion of the canyon. This begins the process of restoring soil moisture in the canyon. Previously, the summer sun evaporated almost all of the water from the ground. Even after a Fall storm, the sun was strong enough to remove the newly fallen water from the soil column. But now the Sun has lost its power, and from now until spring, repeated snow fall and melting will again make the first few meters of soil saturate with water. At mile 1.1, a wind-protected south facing slope that is covered with trees that still retain their leaves, is a contrast of white and orange-brown leaves.

It is warm enough that runners have returned to wearing only shirts, and the parking lot is packed and overflowing with cars. There are even two horseback mounted bow hunters on the road. During this warm recovery, only three insects are seen: an unidentified moth at the parking lot, an immature Box elder bug, and a miniature Thin-legged Wolf spider.

At the Guardhouse Gate picnic area, I notice an overlooked cultivar: a fifteen foot crabapple tree that was previously hidden behind the leaves of the horsechestnut trees. In its highest branches, there are still twelve apples. I throw a stick in the tree, and dislodge one. It is in good condition despite the recent cold weather, rain, and snow. This is my second canyon apple for this year.

Back on October 5th at 2:00 p.m., as usual I am jogging while looking down at my feet. As I look down near picnic site 6, I see a small red crabapple without any blemishes sitting on the road. It looks identical to one that I purchased at a local supermarket earlier that day, only slightly smaller. Looking up, I was standing underneath one of the canyon’s cultivars. Historically, domestic fruit trees have been planted along the road about every three-quarters of a mile. These non-native trees could have planted when an enterprising Mormon pioneer first forced a road up the canyon in 1853 to start a saw mill, or at some later time, e.g. – in the 1950s when the water treatment plant was constructed. There is no historical record of the planting.

This afternoon, I am standing next to two green crabapple trees near the old Pleasant Valley Reservoir site at mile 1.7. Last year in October, both were full crabapples. During October through early November, each day I would pick a green crabapple from the high branches above the browse line of deer for a snack. This year, there are none here or at two others between here and the water treatment plant at mile 3.4. These crabapple trees stayed green through October 15th, and then over a short four day period, they turned a bright yellow and their leaves fell. Today, they are all sleeping leafless trunk and twig.

This year, I had to make do with my two red crabapples – which were both delicious, instead of the usual twenty. Where have all the green crabapples gone?

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