Sunday, January 03, 2010

Aspen Trees And Their Uses

Aspen trees are considered to be one of the largest organisms in the world and yet maintain the identity of being slender and delicate. Appreciating the splendor of aspen can happen almost anywhere due to its ability to share its natural beauty in many forms.

When one thinks of aspen they generally imagine forest groves in the Rocky or Appalachian Mountains, but in reality aspen trees grow all over the globe. They can be found in Europe, Asia and Japan. Aspen trees survive only within specific environments; cool regions with cool summers and cold winters. That is why they are only found within 5,000 feet-12,000 feet above sea level. On rare occasions they have been seen as low as 1,500 feet but rarely survive due to the mild winters. Only grown in the Northern Hemisphere, their northern limits are determined by its intolerance to permafrost and they can extend south only at the high altitudes.

In western North America, Quaking Aspens grow only in portions of the Rocky Mountain Range (which extends from Canada to Mexico). At maturity, this medium-size deciduous tree usually reaches heights of 66 feet-82 feet with a trunk size of 6 inches-24 inches. The leaves are generally round (1 inch-1½ inches in diameter) and 1 inch-2 inches long with small irregular rounded teeth. They are connected with strong flattened stems, which enable the leaves to twist and flutter in the slightest breezes originating the meaning of its name.

To propagate, aspen trees have two options; they can generate from seeds or clone from root suckers. The seeds are released in capsules that are attached to cottony fluff produced by mature trees in the spring. Once the seed takes root and produces a tree the roots stretches out to create a new sapling, creating a colony. Every sapling has the same genetic code as the original seed so the whole colony ends up being clone trees. New stems in the colony may appear 9 feet-12 feet from the parent tree. Each tree only lives for 40-150 years above ground, but the root system of the colony is long-lived, in some cases for many thousands of years, sending up new trees as the older trees die off above the ground. One such colony in Utah is claimed to be 80,000 years old, making it possibly the oldest living colony in the world. Some aspen colonies become very large with time, spreading about three feet per year, eventually covering many hectares. They are able to survive intense forest fires as the roots are far below the heat of the fire, with new sprouts' growing after the fire is out.

The wood of the aspen is white, and soft, but fairly strong, and has very low flammability. It has a number of uses, notably for making matches, where its low flammability makes it safer to use and easy to blow out compared to other woods. Shredded aspen wood is also a popular animal bedding, as it lack the phenols (natural chemicals) associated with pine and juniper, which are thought to cause respiratory ailments in some animals. Once a tree dies it can also be kiln dried and used in making furniture. Real aspen rustic log furniture adds a great deal of character to many American households as it adds environmentally friendly components to everyday life. Aspen is the preferred log of many craftsmen as each piece has unique character, creates a rustic style and it has an outstanding resilience to bug infestation.

About The Author
Jessica Stevenson grew up in Colorado and currently lives in the beautiful mountains of Utah. She attended Brigham Young University where she received her Bachelors degree. Jessica expanded her education by studying abroad in the Middle East and interning in Washington DC for 18 months. Currently she is employed where she oversees the production of aspen log and reclaimed timber furniture.

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