Friday, April 19, 2024

Delving into the Red Bark Phenomenon

Red bark on a white pine tree.

Every morning, I walk along state highway 67 in Ephratah, NY.  Recently, I noticed that a few of the fir trees by the side of the road appeared to have red bark.  I did not know if this was a type of tree that I should be able to ID or if something else was going on.  I Googled “red bark” and found articles about “Red Bark Phenomenon” such as this one.

I sent photos and questions to a helpful young man at the NYS DEC named Jeremy. He always answers my questions, and if he cannot, he forwards my emails to the wildlife biologist, or, in this case, to Kelsey McLaughlin, Forest Pathologist, Forest Health Diagnostic Lab, Bureau of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. (Side note: I wish I were still teaching, because I would love to discuss this job title with my students!)

Kelsey confirmed the Red Bark Phenomenon with this reply:

“I believe you’re correct that this is the red bark phenomenon on these white pines. As I’m sure you’ve read, this is believed to be associated with an algae, which seems to be living harmlessly on the tree’s bark. First reported on by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, it has been observed throughout the northeast and midwestern states, and on many different coniferous and broadleaved tree species. We still have a lot to learn about this phenomenon, but here are some more resources on the red bark phenomenon…”

Click here to view a document from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

Check out this article on “bleeding sycamores” by Joe Boggs posted on Ohio State University’s website

Coincidentally, I just read Richard Powers’ book, The Overstory, about humans and their connections with trees. Also, Class, Race, and Gender:  Challenging the Injuries and Divisions of Capitalism by Michael Zweig discusses today’s social justice movements, including saving the environment. On April 17, my book club began Laudato Si’, an encyclical by Pope Francis in regard to the environment as our “common home.”

Photo at top: Red bark on a white pine tree. Photo by Laura Bellinger.

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I am a retired teacher who enjoys the outdoors, especially the Adirondacks. My parents took us camping when we were kids, then we attended 4-H Camp in Speculator (a former CCC camp). As an adult, I served on the Camp board for 8 years. I went to my friend's camp in Bloomingdale (Saranac) for 10 years. We enjoyed cross country skiing, canoeing, fishing, snowshoeing, etc. I still hike, cross country and downhill ski, snowshoe. I bicycle and ride a Harley. I play the organ at a 300 year old church.




One Response

  1. Paul Harvey Antes says:

    Thanks for sharing such a interesting observation and great responses from the DEC

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