Yamadori Shore Pine, Western Hemlock, Alaska Yellow Cedar and Sitka Spruce in S.E Alaska Muskeg

Highbidjj

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Greetings everyone,
My skills are not such that I would try to tell anyone about their trees or mine, but I do have a story to tell that might interest.

Three weeks ago, I went hunting yamadori in the Muskeg on Chichagof Island (Hoonah) Alaska. I live in the Seattle area so a flight to Juneau is shorter than to Los Angeles. From there I caught an Alaska Seaplanes flight to Hoonah, where I was met by my guide, Jeff Skaflestad, Jeff is really a bear guide and the danger of the massive brown bears there is very, very real. DO NOT go out in the muskeg of Alaska without a well armed local to watch your back. While you look at the little trees on the ground, the bears are always watching you.

The muskeg is thousands of years old and runs as deep as 30ft. The high acid and water levels stunt the trees, Not 100ft away, on solid earth, the same species grow to full height. Jeff took me to 7 biomes in 2 days. The different elevations and weather made for very different tree types and contortions.

I cannot imagine a better 2 days hunting trees. Because I was bringing everying home on the plane, I only collected three small trees, a pine, a western hemlock and a sitka spruce. They are not too special. Altough cool in their own small ways, this trip was to learn about the trees. There are world trophy trees everywhere there and until Jeff and I work out how to ship and aclimate better, I would not risk them.

I will share some images here. I am happy to send a dropbox link as well, to anyone interested. I have videos as well as images of the tiny town. Hoonah is a cruise ship port and so visiting the muskeg could be part of a port call if you got up there that way. Feel free to ask for images.20211023_115548.jpg

It was a great experience and one I can highly recommend to anyone.
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andrewiles

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Very cool! I'm in the Seattle area as well and I've been pondering a spring trip up to Ketchikan. Maybe we can all band together and pay for a barge shipment down the coast :D.
 

Highbidjj

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My guide is amazing. A true blue collar renaissance man who knows that island from a traditional tlingit childhood to adulthood as a logger cum science teacher and tribal elder. As a traditional artist and carver, he is just as interested in the adventure as I am.

I can't wait to head back in the Spring.

RIght now, its all covering in snow.
 
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@River's Edge .hey Frank. Thought you might like these pics! How about these for quality collecting spots?!?! 😉 I haven’t seen anyone on here collecting further north than you!
I collect about 100 miles south of the arctic circle. I'm going to need a few more years experience before I feel comfortable collecting quality material though.
 

BrierPatch

Mame
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Thanks for sharing pics of your journey! Really enjoyed the pics.
 

August44

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Very nice trees up there it looks like to me. Did you get a nice root ball with collected ones? Lucky you!
 

Highbidjj

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Glad you asked, no I did not. And that is the real challenge. In this environment "root ball" is a fantasy. The roots run crazy distances and contortions seeking suitable environment.

The peat of the bog goes down for many, many feet. And the top is layered with low scrubby plants like berry vines, etc. What I thought was a lot of roots for the hemlock turned out to be not much at all. The spruce was more clear because of the color and the run of the roots.

I talked with Dan Robinson, because he successfully collects in a similar environment on North Vancouver Island and his advice was to look for trees in the boundary edges between bog and solid soil. We also talked about maybe introducing earth near the plant base one season and collecting it the next after rooting, similar to his strategy for collecting high altitude junipers with peat moss. But it was all just a brief conjectural chat.

I am really fascinated by the place and plan to go every year so over time a strategy is bound to develop. If nothing else, there are thousands of free range bonsai to enjoy viewing. 🤣
 

AnacortesSteve

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Nice trees, by boat or truck it's a long trip, it would be hard to keep them happy that long.
My guess would be to find a nice close town and bring the trees there and nurse them there for a couple seasons and bring them home when they are basically styled (small) and healthy.
 

August44

Omono
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Glad you asked, no I did not. And that is the real challenge. In this environment "root ball" is a fantasy. The roots run crazy distances and contortions seeking suitable environment.

The peat of the bog goes down for many, many feet. And the top is layered with low scrubby plants like berry vines, etc. What I thought was a lot of roots for the hemlock turned out to be not much at all. The spruce was more clear because of the color and the run of the roots.

I talked with Dan Robinson, because he successfully collects in a similar environment on North Vancouver Island and his advice was to look for trees in the boundary edges between bog and solid soil. We also talked about maybe introducing earth near the plant base one season and collecting it the next after rooting, similar to his strategy for collecting high altitude junipers with peat moss. But it was all just a brief conjectural chat.

I am really fascinated by the place and plan to go every year so over time a strategy is bound to develop. If nothing else, there are thousands of free range bonsai to enjoy viewing. 🤣
Yes, I was wondering if you had that problem. Dan's suggestion sounds right on. Just wonderful trees!
 

River's Edge

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In this environment "root ball" is a fantasy.
The unvarnished truth and the reason why specific techniques are needed for successful collection in those sites. Most collectors give up after several unsuccessful collections. The best strategy I have found is to collect from the hummocks that emerge in these sites or the up slope transitions to these sites and be very selective as to the correct time of year for best results. The bogs in certain areas tend to dry out more by the end of the summer with trees often in a summer dormancy from drier conditions. They begin to reactivate after a few fall rains. This is a good time to collect before the bog becomes inundated with fresh rainfall again. Spring runoff makes earlier in the season a very difficult time. ( of course I cannot speak to the Alaska sites as to summer conditions your guide would be the best source of this information, it may or may not coincide with hunting season in that neck of the woods)

Another uncomfortable truth is that the trees with real flaky bark are difficult to keep that way when soil conditions change for Bonsai and the tree begins to grow more aggressively. That is when #22 copper wire comes in handy.
 

Highbidjj

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The unvarnished truth and the reason why specific techniques are needed for successful collection in those sites. Most collectors give up after several unsuccessful collections. The best strategy I have found is to collect from the hummocks that emerge in these sites or the up slope transitions to these sites and be very selective as to the correct time of year for best results. The bogs in certain areas tend to dry out more by the end of the summer with trees often in a summer dormancy from drier conditions. They begin to reactivate after a few fall rains. This is a good time to collect before the bog becomes inundated with fresh rainfall again. Spring runoff makes earlier in the season a very difficult time. ( of course I cannot speak to the Alaska sites as to summer conditions your guide would be the best source of this information, it may or may not coincide with hunting season in that neck of the woods)

Another uncomfortable truth is that the trees with real flaky bark are difficult to keep that way when soil conditions change for Bonsai and the tree begins to grow more aggressively. That is when #22 copper wire comes in handy.
Thank you River's Edge. Those are some awesome tips. I am lucky to have found a local guy who knows the neighborhood so well in all of its seasons that I can probably just ask him to let me know when the timing is like you described. We already have talked about which places lose snow earliest, etc. Do you have any species specific advice?
My guess would be to find a nice close town and bring the trees there and nurse them there for a couple seasons and bring them home when they are basically styled (small) and healthy.
You've hit the nail on the head Steve. The town of Hoonah is the only town on that island and, like everything around Juneau, accessible only by plane or boat, but they send out a lot of fish on the twice weekly barge. I thought of leaving a few trees with my guide for a season or two maybe and ship down to Seattle in a container once stabilised. The ones I saw on the docks were about 4ft x 3ft x 3ft tall. Basically the footprint of a standard warehouse pallet.
 

River's Edge

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Do you have any species specific advice?
For collection the specifics that are important are more connected with the ability to assess the individual collection challenges posed by the tree you select for collection. Being able to recognize what will work and having a variety of techniques and approaches to fall back on. I have never collected a tree from deep peat bogs in Alaska so could not advise you the best technique for that particular situation.
However I would advise the following.
Become familiar with the insects and diseases prevalent in the area you collect in so you can take preventative measures and recognize the trees and areas to avoid.
Once the trees are acclimatized and have recovered species specifics are more helpful in development.
The exception is understanding the expected root formation for each species if collectable. What should the root formation look like for that species in order for it to have a good chance for success.
Hemlock roots are very different from spruce etc. Often roots are intertwined with a lot of companion plants or shrubs it is good to know which ones can be safely removed during excavation.

Regardless of site, spend most of your time learning how to select the very best material, the amount of expense, work and time involved should not be wasted on poor or mediocre material. Talk to experienced collectors and accompany them to gain experience on why they select or reject material in the field. Best additional preparation you can do in my opinion.
 
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For collection the specifics that are important are more connected with the ability to assess the individual collection challenges posed by the tree you select for collection. Being able to recognize what will work and having a variety of techniques and approaches to fall back on. I have never collected a tree from deep peat bogs in Alaska so could not advise you the best technique for that particular situation.
However I would advise the following.
Become familiar with the insects and diseases prevalent in the area you collect in so you can take preventative measures and recognize the trees and areas to avoid.
Once the trees are acclimatized and have recovered species specifics are more helpful in development.
The exception is understanding the expected root formation for each species if collectable. What should the root formation look like for that species in order for it to have a good chance for success.
Hemlock roots are very different from spruce etc. Often roots are intertwined with a lot of companion plants or shrubs it is good to know which ones can be safely removed during excavation.

Regardless of site, spend most of your time learning how to select the very best material, the amount of expense, work and time involved should not be wasted on poor or mediocre material. Talk to experienced collectors and accompany them to gain experience on why they select or reject material in the field. Best additional preparation you can do in my opinion.
You are giving a lot of excellent advice in this thread. thank you.

I have some larch and black spruce in Alaskan muskeg bogs tagged for collection next year. I can make posts next spring to document if that would help.
 

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