The headline read, "Capitol Sprucing Up."
It was about the Engelmann Spruce (175 feet tall) from the Meeker area being sent to the U.S. Capitol for a Christmas tree. And I thought, "That's nice!"
And then I wondered about the term "sprucing up." So to the dictionary. Fourteenth century "spruce" is a variant of Prussia and referred to things brought from there, including fine leather. Noblemen wore jerkins made of "spruce leather." The words "sprucing-up" were used in a 1676 drama, and so the word became a verb. This usually applied to people and their clothes, but the meaning has now been extended to the capitol of our nation.
But when I looked at the photo in the Grand Junction Sentinel, I thought of our trees on Grand Mesa, along with their companion trees, the subalpine fir. The subalpine fir has gray-silvery bark while Engelmann spruce's bark is brown and scaly. And the height of 175 feet brought to mind just the opposite condition: the twisted, dwarf Engelmann spruce at timberline that I studied on Cottonwood Pass.
The cold, wind, intense sunlight, and shallow soils result in these dwarf trees, labeled as "krummholz," a German word for "crooked woods." Those trees that manage to grow taller (10 to 15 feet) have limbs only on the side away from the constant winds: "banner trees."
Of course, many small creatures and birds shelter within these trees as well as many delicate alpine plants.
A precious memory.blog comments powered by Disqus