Deadwood in Utah juniper

I was recently in southern Utah and I noticed that some of the junipers in the desert have a ribbon like deadwood structure. This photo shows one of the most remarkable ones that I saw. It was literally crawling out of a rock outcropping. The live veins were all running along the bottom of the deadwood. That is the part most sheltered from the sun. I’m curious about the process that creates the ribbon-like shape of the deadwood. Does anyone know how this is formed? I assumed the tree was a Utah juniper. It was at Canyonlands National Park.


It is a combination of sand and wind that sandblasts the wood pulverizing the soft portions and leaving the harder, which gives these trees their amazing character. :metal:t2::evergreen_tree::grinning:

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I wonder if we could change to the conversation to the ethics of pulling this tree for bonsai?

Thanks! That makes sense. So I was mostly fascinated by how old these trees must be. I gather that the trunk was once the diameter of the whole deadwood and then got reduced to the thin structure that we see today. Correct?

We can but my question was really just about how the deadwood formed. I noticed that only a few of them had this peculiar shape while others had just dead branches or parts of the trunk. I photographed a lot of them while hiking.
These trees were in a national park and they are protected as it should be. They are definitely not collectable. I’m pretty sure that damaging them would be a federal crime.

Taking another look at your photo, I have to wonder about the surrounding vegetation throughout the life of this juniper. I don’t see how the tree could have grown that thick and then gone through erosion. I would think that the tree had other trees around it for most of its life. Then some event, fire perhaps, takes out the surrounding vegetation, and now this lonely tree is left to face nature’s wrath, all alone.

As I typed that, I thought, what happens to the ribbon of live tissue behind the weathered wood? It must be putting on a new ring each year. If it does so, wouldn’t it be pushing deadwood outwards from the rock? If we were to eliminate the weathering of the deadwood, would the deadwood be “growing”? That is, the deadwood of the tree is getting thicker with each ring of new growth.

Many years back, I met someone from Texas who talked about collecting trees on private property. The trees were growing down into boulders. To collect the trees, they used pry-bars and explosives. After-care of the trees was done in misting tents because the roots were sparse. My question of ethics is that the boulders, privately owned, would still be there thousands of years from now. Would humanity even remember bonsai? Maybe, maybe not. What would be forgotten is who damaged the boulders, and why. The tool marks we leave on stones is going to be there beyond memory. I’m not sure a beautiful tree, surviving on its own, is worth damaging the landscape.

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The live veins were all running along the bottom of the deadwood.
I think you answered your own question. The live vein is using the ribbon of deadwood for shade…
(Just a q… is UP at the left…? South is at the bottom…)

I need to correct the photo. I uploaded it from my phone and for some reason it got rotated.

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Hard to tell. There may have been a fire at some point who knows. These trees are growing out of cracks between the rocks. I would really hate to see a tree like this gone from the landscape. They are part of what makes these places so beautiful. I find this growth pattern interesting and unique. I haven’t seen any other trees, other than junipers, do this.

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