Door Peninsula White cedar, WI   Lee Frelich
  Sep 05, 2005 18:56 PDT 

Over the weekend I made numerous observations of white cedar, starting with
the Minnesota State Fair Bonsai Show in St.Paul, where there was a
beautiful forest of white cedar growing on a rock complete with
moss-covered forest floor. Then I left for the family summer house at the
tip of Wisconsin's Door Peninsula. It was sunny and about 68 degrees there
day and night with a strong southeast sea breeze blowing Saturday through
Monday (compared to my return to Minneapolis a few hours ago, which was
so....'Minnesota' with a temperature of 90 degrees and a line of severe
thunderstorms on the way predicted to reach here at 1:00 am).

The Door Peninsula is a Silurian coral reef with many cliffs of Niagara
Dolomite (the same rock the Niagara Falls goes over) on the west side and
limy swamps on the east side--very perfect for white cedar. My brother and
I hiked the Ridges Sanctuary at the village of Baileys Harbor. About 13-15
ridges a mile in length and separated by water-filled swales 100-150 feet
wide are in chronological age from youngest (75 years old) at the beach to
4000 years old a mile from Lake Michigan. Many ancient white cedars line
the swales, and many more are fallen into the swales, but remain alive,
with the individual branches turning upright to become new trees, which
then blow down a few hundred years later in many directions, and their
branches become trees as well, the whole tangle a historical puzzle that
may be hundreds or even a thousand or more years old. I call these cedar
complexes. Sometimes it isn't even clear if they (genetically) are one
tree; if another tree falls across a downed cedar, it can graft to the
other tree.

Next we went to Ellison Bluff and Death's Door Bluff County Parks. Each of
these parks contain a mile of high bluffs (the type of territory Will might
be able to navigate, but most people can barely get themselves to look over
the edge). Each park also has a few hundred acres of maple, beech and
hemlock forest on a flat table land on top of the bluffs. Some of the
bluffs have several terraces separated by vertical or overhanging walls of
dolomite. On the terraces are many large ancients cedars, which one can see
in birds eye view from a platform that projects out from the top of the
bluff (Bob--this platform is as close as you and I are going to get to
seeing the forest as Will sees it during one of his white pine climbs). It
really is something to look down on the olive green spires of all those
cedar trees. On the steep slopes and vertical slopes are bizarre little
white cedar trees that look like octopus, snakes, dragon's, etc. These
little trees have been repeatedly broken and regrown over many centuries,
and if we ever find a 2000 year old white cedar in the U.S., this is where
it will be. The specimen of that age in Canada was on the Bruce Peninsula,
which is part of the same coral reef formation as the Door Peninsula. Any
one ready to do some rock climbing?