Dead Trees of the Devils Slide Trail

This page illustrates the dead trees of the Devils Slide Trail. See Dominant Species of Devils Slide Trail and Their Recent Death Rates for more information.

Prior to my first Dominant Plant Survey, I had not paid much attention to trying to identify dead trees. It is hard enough sometimes for me to identify live trees at a distance, so I figured it was nearly impossible to identify dead trees. But I was surprised to find that it was easy to do so most of the time.

Often, the dead trees were the spitting images of the live trees, except they were without foliage, with each species have a characteristic form. Most of the dead trees seen on the Devils Slide Trail are white firs, Abies concolor, which usually have two distinctive characteristics: they have small branches relative to their trunk size (except for very large specimens); and they have dead branches that curl downward. Also, dead white firs sometimes retain dead mistletoe clumps, which is a dead giveaway since mistletoe is essentially found only on white firs at these elevations.

The only specimens that could not be 100% reliably identified were very large old dead trees. Old massive dead white firs, sugar pines, and Jeffrey pines become somewhat similar, especially when most of the smaller branches are no longer present.

White Fir, Abies concolor

The following photograph is unfortunately quite typical of the area of the Devils Slide Trail and below:

The two prominent dead trees in the center, as well as perhaps the trees immediately behind them to the right, are probably dead Ponderosa pines or possibly sugar pines. Most of the other dead trees in the picture are white fir, showing their characteristic curled-downward dead branches. Compare their overall form with the fairly-numerous live white firs also in the picture.

The following photograph shows a single dead white fir, with live white firs behind it:

Jeffrey Pine, Pinus jeffreyi

The following picture shows a dead Jeffrey pine on the right, with a dead white fir on the left for comparison:

Note that the dead branches are not as curled for the Jeffrey pine, and the base of the branches are larger relative to those of the white fir.

The following pictures show a live and dead Jeffrey pine side by side to show how the form is preserved in the dead tree:

I'll try to add pictures of dead sugar pines in the future.

Scouler Willow, Salix scouleriana

Unlike the other species, willows never really die, they just resprout. Scouler willow is present in four of the seven drainages on the Devils Slide Trail, as well as in a fifth moist area. The three higher elevation spots have plants with no dead stems, but the two lower elevation spots consist mostly of dead stems from a prior wetter time. The following picture shows one of the lower drainages:

Go to:

Copyright © 2008 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 12 September 2008.