Loss of Oaks

Yes, The Squirrel Nutwork is still on winter hiatus, but our recent weather is prompting us to speak for the trees!

Like most of the east coast, we had high winds in northern Virginia over the weekend. Sadly, our suburban woodlands around the golf course lost many old oaks, a loss for both the human and wildlife inhabitants.

Many were snapped off, but a closer look showed that the heartwood of the tree was rotten.

Unfortunately, these older trees had such a branch spread of strong limbs that they took down adjacent trees.

One was apparently decayed enough at the base and roots that it uprooted.

We squirrels noted that recent replacement of the sidewalk adjacent to this last double oak had also included a regrading of the entire soil bed surrounding the tree… The tree was rotten, but it’s never a good idea to mess with the roots of a tree! They extend farther than most humans think–one and a half times the diameter of the branch spread. Good thing to keep in mind to help your trees weather storms like we seem to be having more frequently.


Thirsty Thursday

Sometimes we wish for water…and sometimes we get too much! We had a burst of spring thunderstorms move through our section of Virginia yesterday, complete with some spitting hail. Now no animal in his right mind was out in it, including this old squirrel, but we did venture out after it let up. The trees dripped and the air hung heavy with warm moisture. Ms. Flora was disheartened to see some of the yard flowers smashed flat and the blossoms torn off the azaleas which are–were–in full bloom.

azalea after hail

But what really saddened us squirrels were these debris from our trees lining the sidewalks.

hail damage

Know what those little white things are in there?

Wild Cherry tree buds

No, Ol’ Wally won’t make you wait around for the answer. These are the buds of another wild cherry tree–one we call pin cherries–which means for us, we have fewer cherries to eat this summer. Very sad. We think some survived, but will let the trees recover for a day before we go out on limbs to check.


Lightening was still flashing across the skies as the rain let up and I stuck my head out of my new leaf nest. It held up well through a severe storm that blew through in the middle of the night, probably because the branches are still new and flexible. But the lawn below looked like a hundred squirrels had descended and nipped all the branches they could reach. In other words, a hundred times worse than my clippings Hickory showed you yesterday. We needed the rain, but not like this!

With the human sirens sounding and all of us a little shaky from riding out the storm in swaying trees, Hickory and I did a little tour of the neighborhood. Leaves and branches littered the ground and streets.

A few trees fell, thankfully none of them ours. We’ll have to do a better check once it’s light out.


We’re back with a daylight update. Please be careful out there – some branches–large branches that could pass for small trees–are still hanging and could fall.

Ol’ Wally told us younger squirrels humans used to call these ‘widow-makers.’

In our region, the storms mostly blow in from the west. As we scampered around we detected how that affects the trees and their branches. Of these two old spruces, the one on the western side now leans eastward.

This Red Maple branch that extended across the street got twisted backwards, but…

a neighboring oak’s dead branch in the lee of the trunk didn’t break.

The tops of several of the forty-year-old White Pines we’ve talked about snapped clean off.

This isn’t unusual Miz Flora says, because pine is a ‘softwood’. The tree grows fast, so the plant cells forming the trunk are large and well, soft. The wood breaks, is easy to cut and burns quickly.

So our neighborhood got by with minor damages, and we hope all our local neighbors fared as well.