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December 6, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

A place for piece.

They stood tall – back to back. Heads high.

This had been their home long before 1691.

Until that wandering Spaniard stumbled upon them.

Publicity photo Beverly Hillbillies, CBS (Public domain image - no copyright, for media/

Once found, they were lost?

Never trained in self-defense, they watch helplessly as some of their own were carried off – as far as northern Mexico.

The rough abductions weren’t quiet affairs.

It scarred the community.

The night winds carried their quaking and terrified whispers wondering the fate of those spirited away.

The fallen never returned.

The community could only hope they were able to build a new life wherever they ended up.

Painting by Nahl, 1870.(US public domain-life of artist+100

But now, 2011.

This could destroy them all.

All good things must come to an end.

Only the natural order of things?

Hansel and Gretel. Grimm Fairy tales, Rackham illustration, 1909. (US Public domain, expired copyright,

Besides they were, well, an oddity out-of-place.

Shouldn’t be there.

Cut off from the others.


But they stood tall.

Generations of them.

(Rumored to live hundreds and hundreds of years.)

Salem. engraving 17th century. (US Public domain.expired copyright.

Together they faced the flames that crept to their feet.

Willing courage to hope of life reborn after this trial by fire.

Small seeds of hope was all they had.

It was enough.

The guardian entrusted served them well.

And now they are returning.

Coming home.

To set down roots.

Labor Day, 2011, wildfires started scorching Texas. Burning for weeks, the devastating fires cost 2 lives, burned about 1,673 homes, made over 33,00 thousand acres resemble moonscape, killed cattle and wildlife, and destroyed miles of forested land – including two-thirds or more of the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park where the strange population of Lost Pines existed.

Loblolly pines shouldn’t be there. Lost Pines forest covers about 13 miles across central Texas – much farther west than other loblolly forests.

It could be remnants of an ancient forest that shrank during an Ice Age.

These trees are tough and drought resistance.

But no match for wildfires.

Loblolly pines. (Image- Jeffrey

Loblolly pines. (Image: Jeffrey

Panic and a scramble of phone calls.

Where were the seeds?

That specific genetic stock of the original tall loblolly forest of Lost Pines.

Two decades ago, the forest service, planning to preserve and reseed pine forests in 5 states, collected thousands of loblolly pine seeds.

But then the Texas Forest Service closed it’s tree farms.

Couldn’t sell the seeds. Other pines are better for timber growers.

No one wanted them.

So 1,100 pounds were stored in a freezer belonging to Brookshire Brother’s in Lufkin,Texas.

About to be dumped.

But something kept holding one man back from making final arrangements.

Then the fires began.

Wildfire photo taken by local resident

Wildfire photo taken by local resident

Tom Byram, Texas A&M Forest Service geneticist, rushed to check on the seeds, then called experts in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

They’ve been busy.

Now there are some 500,00 Loblolly seedlings about 10 inches tall ready to hit the road and go home to set down roots.

And there’s more where those came from: enough for 14 million trees.

The first plantings have started.

Eventually Lost Pines will be once again standing tall.

Forest recovering. (Image.

Forest fixing itself. (Image:

Pampered grandchildren trees taking their rightful place.

Right where they belong.

And the State of Texas is rethinking its’ plans for securing biodiversity.

Aldo Leopold was right: “The first rule of tinkering is to save all the pieces”

That thought ought to spread like wildfire.

Fond of pines (some grow cattle, we grew trees),

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

5 yr old loblolly pines. (Image-John A

5 yr old loblolly pines. (Image: John A Matel /

Read more about 3 types of yellow pine:

(Yellow pine wood is what you usually buy at the lumber store / used in home construction)

Loblolly is not your glamour girl of pines.

  • Doesn’t have the long fine green needles reminding you of super models lashes like Slash pines do
  • Not the obedient growing straight as soldiers pines favored by tree plantations (must have all that pine for furniture, 2×4’s and construction grade boards to ship to China)
  • Tend to grow crooked, gnarled with lots of branches (creates knots in the wood) – and  drops needles like crazy, so lots of raking for homeowners
  • But they are tough and drought resistant preferring well-drained soil.

Slash pines are the tall, flashy, fast growers with long dark needles. These prefer humidity and moist soils, but do not do well in wind or ice storms. (Depressing to walk out and see rows of them broken in half after a storm.)

Longleaf Pines are very slow growers, may live 500 years, and prefer coastal areas. These smart trees have developed survival techniques for forest fires. They seal themselves against flames and survive.


Texas Parks and Wildlife. “Life after Wildfire: The Future of Bastrop State Park”. Map of fire at Lost Pines, pictures of park, info about what’s happening now in the park.

Arbor Day Foundation: Lost Pines Recovery Campaign. How to help and info. Video of the first planting loblolly babies!

Lost Pines Forest. (Image.

Oh, FYI.

During the devastating wildfires, pleas were made for Federal Assistance to help fight the fires threatening major population areas. Denied.

After the devastating wildfire, requests were made for FEMA and emergency assistance for ranchers, farmers, and those affected. Denied.

Roadblock in front of Texas wildfire, 2011. Photo by local resident.

Roadblock in front of Texas wildfire, 2011. Photo by local resident.

Still, it’s important to send taxpayers’ money overseas to help other countries.

The cobbler’s child goes without shoes.

Texas wildfire, 2011. Taken by local resident.

Texas wildfire, 2011. Taken by local resident.


  1. maddie22201 / Dec 6 2012 4:20 pm

    Thanks for this…love the way things can end on a positive note. Now we need to just get those 87 to 96 percentage of fires caused by people to cease and we may be helping out alright.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 12:22 am

      The Bastrop fire reportedly started when a dead tree branch hit power lines (we were in sever drought). Several of the other wild fires at the same time were started by arsonists (kids and one by a former volunteer fire fighter. – and one by a home owner with bad judge who let an outdoor fire get out of control.)
      This year in CO, lightning has started several fires in Rocky Mountain National park area.They need snow!
      Thanks for climbing over to chat.


      • PiedType / Dec 7 2012 1:01 am

        Some have been started by lightning, but the Fern Lake fire in RMNP was started by an illegal campfire. Snow predicted for tonight in the high country and more Saturday night that may spread into Denver.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:14 am

          We actually came upon a small set fire once hiking on a Teton trail – stomped it and ran to alert forest service. It was during a high risk/no fires allowed period just off a trailhead in some brush ( near enough to make a car get-a-way)…just happened to smell smoke and found it. Who would want to do this? Hope the west coast storms linger long enough to give ya’ll some moisture…we had downpours late Tues…the dog’s dancing in the mud today. Thanks for all the RMNP updates!


  2. jmlindy422 / Dec 6 2012 4:24 pm

    Great post. I love anything related to plant conservation. Living right by the prairie, I watch them burn sections of it every year to ensure the native species survive. Our oaks come through the fire fine, not like those poor pines. Completely heartwarming that someone had the sense to save the seed. Those seedlings are adorable. But the fire pictures are what really got to me.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 12:26 am

      We worry when the marshes/wetlands catch fire here. Land management (public land) does prescribed burns on the prairie here – but in 2011, they started one when the winds were much too high and it got out of control fast – drought left lots to burn. They’ve done some rethinking about that. Fires are natural, but needs to be done carefully. (and I always hope the wind blows the smoke the other way…)
      Thanks for planting a comment here


  3. RAB / Dec 6 2012 4:47 pm

    Beautiful to know that this pine forest will be restored even though it can’t be turned into money!
    Sorry about the ranches and homes. No place is safe from natural disasters, and they seem to be coming more and more often in more and more places….


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 1:40 am

      Conservationists say one reason the Lost Pines forest has done well and actually increased in size is that these pines aren’t desirable for timber. Other trees are and have been harvested. Lost Pines has been a favorite place to hike and visit. Lots of people are volunteering to help replant – which means they will have more ties to the park That’s got to be a good thing.
      Natural fires happen and there are benefits to the land – but fire and drought together are pretty brutal.
      Thanks for wandering through the wood’s words.


  4. roughseasinthemed / Dec 6 2012 6:33 pm

    That would be Jed and Daisy May in the first pic?

    I don’t understand your aid. (Actually I understand very little about American finances). And although I used not to agree with global assistance I do now. I don’t agree with global imperialism which is a different issue – what the one hand giveth, the other etc.

    Regarding the bush fires, I have been astounded with the speed of the regrowth in our Spanish bush fire areas. And that’s without any help. No justification for gaily setting a few fires alight but surprising how resilient nature is.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 1:57 am

      Oh, that was a publicity shot of Granny and Jeb. Daisy Mae has the blond pigtails.And the other big kid is Jethro. I was looking for some backwoods types and stumbled on that shot. It just seemed funny.
      The TX governor was asking the federal government to send 2 fire fighting planes that were under contract to the parks service and sitting on CA runways waiting for approval. The feds can also release (taxpayer) money to pay fire fighters – there’s groups that are on call during fire season. Equipment and rescue gear/vehicles are available with federal agencies/national parks service.
      If the area is declared a disaster area, ranchers, farmers, and people can apply for low interest government backed loans. Individual ranchers and farmers operate on such a slim margin, they really should be given a break – But homeowners should have insurance and realize there’s always a risk. FEMA should provide temporary housing and emergency needs for a short period – or that’s how it was supposed to work, but doesn’t very well. The feds should not be paying 100% replacement costs for anyone.
      The parks services do controlled burns from time to time as fire is a natural event with benefits to the land. 2011 was a sever drought year – and much too dry to attempt that..and one foolish agency did start one during very high winds not far at all from here – the fire soon got totally out of control and it was a nightmare. THe Bastrop fire at Lost pines was started by a dead tree hitting a powerline causing sparks. Several adjacent fires were arson.(People were caught and charged…they were lucky the burned out residents didn’t get them first.)
      Thanks for hiking over!


      • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:01 pm

        Oh, wait. Ellie May was the daughter in pigtails. (too much multi-tasking). Was thinking of Daisy Duke – different show/fashion. Granny’s name may have been Daisy – will have to check that – I think she did have a “suitor” sometimes who probably used her name. Sorry for the confusion (off the couch, Molly)


  5. aFrankAngle / Dec 6 2012 7:35 pm

    interesting how nature uses fires to destroy much, yet something comes forth because of it.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:01 am

      No doubt about it. Fires do help forests and prairie lands. Always want the smoke and flames running away from me, though. Thanks for hiking over


  6. robstroud / Dec 7 2012 12:10 am

    The hardiest are certainly not always the prettiest. Something true for us people as well as our botanical neighbors. But then, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so who’s to say the Loblolly Pines aren’t the grandest of the evergreens?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:07 am

      Loblolly make lovely forests – birds and animals love them, too. (but having had to rake the needles…I like them best in someone else’s yard!…but the pine straw does make terrific mulch and piled up, protects plants from freezes quite well.) Thanks for raking a comment this way


  7. jmmcdowell / Dec 7 2012 12:27 am

    I’m glad the seeds were available and not discarded years ago. When left to herself, Nature has a way of restoring a balance. There may be change, but it’s natural. Problems arise when we humans start mucking with things without considering the consequences. But please tell me they aren’t planting those seedlings in neat rows!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:10 am

      I was so excited that these seeds came from that particular forest – it’s a valuable genetic forest…some wanted the forest service to plant different types of trees – but this was where these trees have been for ages – and fortunately there will be 50+ foot tall loblolly pines growing there again. Thanks goodness that man just couldn’t bring himself to dump the seeds. Thanks for planting a comment


  8. PiedType / Dec 7 2012 1:09 am

    Huge hugs for Tom Byram and his foresight! I love all pines, all conifers, but have a special fondness for the crooked, twisted ones that show tenacity and determination.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:17 am

      The pines in RMNP are different – that wonderful Ponderosa pine smell! They grow into pieces of art among the boulders. And the wind running through them sounds so beautiful. You are the lucky one! Thanks for cheering along for Tom Byram.


  9. EllaDee / Dec 7 2012 2:42 am

    I was pleased to see the Loblolly pines have a future due to procrastination or a canny six the sense… who cares how… but incomprehensible that the assistance was offered… were they worried a precdent would be created, I wonder. A disaster is a disaster, no matter of what type – why differentiate with aid?


    • shoreacres / Dec 7 2012 12:56 pm

      Why differentiate with aid? Very simple. A firmly Republican state, and a Democratic President who doesn’t like its Republican governor very much at all. In short – politics.


      • EllaDee / Dec 7 2012 7:25 pm

        Thanks…ok, now I understand… it makes wrong sense…


  10. littlesundog / Dec 7 2012 3:13 am

    What an interesting post! Originally from Nebraska, I had only heard of Loblolly Pines – I knew nothing about them. After reading your post I looked at a map of the natural range of this beautiful tree, and it covers a lot of the southern and southeastern (even some of the east coast) US. What a treasure that these seeds were not discarded… and what a gift to generations of people who will enjoy their beauty!


  11. shoreacres / Dec 7 2012 1:00 pm

    I hadn’t heard the story of the loblolly seeds – thank goodness they hadn’t been tossed! I still remember the night that fire started. I actually spotted it on radar first – quite amazing, what shows up that way. It was horrific, for sure.

    Speaking of new beginnings, it looks like there’s going to be an ending. When I was on Bolivar a week ago I saw some earth-moving equipment down at Rollover. It looks to me like that closing of the pass is actually in the works. The Corps giveth and the Corps taketh away…


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 7 2012 2:48 pm

      And exactly what is driving the Roller Pass change now. The past couple of years, the public and sports fishermen groups have been pleading and trying to find out why the Corps (who work for us) insist on closing the pass and end the fishing. They will put dredged sludge from the ship channel in there? Gotta get ready for that flood of expected cargo containers? Need wider channel for the Norwegian Cruise ships they are bribing to use the Bayport white elephant cruise line port? Hmm, maybe they don’t have enough channel pilots that can do the Texas Chicken maneuver down the channel? (for those not familiar with the ship channel maneuver pilots must make in the narrow ship channel, click here for explanation.
      Did you hear a big fed grant was awarded to study why the Galveston beach sand goes away and how to stop that. Seriously – ask a local – look at east beach which is growing. Currents. Put in jetties all along the island ( which fishermen would love) and the island will retain and grow. But they won’t do that because jetties create dangerous areas for swimming and surfing. Why don’t they just throw the money out the tallest window and say “Hey, it’s your tax money at work”
      Oh, sorry…off topic…during the wildfires, we kept calling sister-in-law on the ranch to ask which way the wind was blowing and if they could see the smoke yet. Pretty scary.
      Thanks for wandering over


  12. writingfeemail / Dec 7 2012 6:41 pm

    Great post. My area in NC suffered a forest fire a couple of weeks ago. It is such a devastating blow to the wildlife and some even suffered burned feet/paws and/or singed fur. We may never know how many or the damage caused to their lungs. It’s especially rough when it blows up suddenly and there is little time for escape, often trapping them inside of the perimeter of the fire. Thanks again Karen for such a thoughtful post.


  13. Robin / Dec 7 2012 7:41 pm

    So glad to hear someone is picking up and saving the pieces. 🙂


  14. jannatwrites / Dec 8 2012 6:45 am

    Too bad federal assistance was denied. It doesn’t make sense, but it is government. How exciting to have new trees planted that can one day fill the landscape. Good thinking for saving the seeds!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 9 2012 5:57 pm

      And the seeds came from the original forest. Sometimes things do work out. Thanks for hiking over to chat


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