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The Yosemite Valley (1910) by Galen Clark

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Pines.—The leaves of pines are needle shaped, enclosed in a sheath at their junction with the branch, and vary in numbers and length in different varieties.

Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa)—The leaves of this variety grow in clusters of three, and are dark green in color and average about six inches in length in full grown trees. On young thrifty trees they are two or more inches longer. Cones, when mature, before the scales enclosing the seeds dry and open, are about. three inches in length and one inch in diameter.

This pine is often found two hundred feet in height and eight to ten feet in diameter, the average height of mature trees being about one hundred and seventy-five feet with a diameter of six or seven feet.

Black Pine (Pinus Jefferyi)—Only a few trees of this variety of pines are found in Yosemite. Its natural habitat is at a higher altitude. It is said to be a variety of the Ponderosa. Its leaves are in clusters of three, about six inches long, of a light green color with a bright silvery sheen. The cones are about five inches in length and three inches in diameter. The body and height of full grown trees are not quite equal to the Ponderosa.

Sugar Pine (Pinus Lambertiana)—This is a variety of the White Pine. Its leaves grow in clusters of five, about three inches long and lightish green in color. The cones are the longest of any of the pine-tree family, but vary very much in length on different trees and at different altitudes. The average length is about sixteen inches, but in many instances they are found over twenty inches long. This tree gets the name of Sugar Pine from the fact that where the trees are burned deep into the heart a moist substance exudes and dries in white globules of a sweet taste, much like sugar. The Sugar Pine grows to about the same diameter and height as the Ponderosa. It is considered the most valuable lumber tree in California. There are but few of them growing in Yosemite Valley.

Tamarack Pine (Pinus Murrayana)—The natural habitat of this pine is at a much higher altitude than Yosemite, but there are a few growing in the Valley started from seeds brought down by flood waters. This pine has only two leaves about two inches long, in a fascicle. The cones are not much larger than a lady’s thimble. The bark is very thin, which renders the tree easily killed by fire. It is not a good tree for lumber.

Douglas Spruce (Pseudotsuga Douglasii)—This tree is found quite plentifully in some parts of Yosemite. Its small narrow leaves, about one inch in length, are attached to the slender twigs in irregular order. The cones are about two inches long, with bracts exserted beyond the scales. This tree grows to a large size, six or seven feet in diameter and one hundred and fifty feet in height. It is considered one of the best of timber trees, on account of standing well the extreme conditions of wet and dry exposure.

White Fir (Abies concolar)—This is the only variety of fir growing in Yosemite Valley. It grows to a large size—five and six feet in diameter and over one hundred feet high. The small, narrow leaves, a little over an inch in length and light green in color, grow in regular close rows on each side of the slender branches. The cones are about three

The Happy Isles, Merced River, by George Fiske
Merced River
[Photo by George Fiske]
inches long and about one inch in diameter. The scales are not persistent like those of the pines and spruces; when fully ripe they fall to pieces.

White Cedar (Libocedrus decurrens)—This tree grows to a large size in Yosemite. It is found, in many instances, seven and eight feet in diameter and one hundred and fifty feet high. It does not have a regular cone. The seed vessel is small, about an inch in length and half an inch in diameter, with a scale on each side of a septum. Under each scale two seeds are matured with a permanent wing appendage. When the seeds are ripe the scales dry and open, and the seeds are scattered broadcast by the winds. The young trees very much resemble the Arbor Vita.


Black Oak (Quercus Kelloggii)—This tree is very common in Yosemite. Its wide-spreading branches and dome-shaped top makes it a very conspicuous and ornamental part of the forest scenery. In the fall of the year its abundant green foliage turns to an orange color, adding much to the charm of the autumnal landscape. The acorns are highly prized by the Indians, who grind them into meal from which they make bread. Before using this meal it is put through a leaching process, which takes out all the bitter astringent quality.

Live Oak. (Quercus chrysolepis)—This oak grows around the borders of the Valley among the fallen rocks at the base of the walls. The wood, when well seasoned, is the hardest of any tree in California.

Other Trees.

Cottonwood (Populus Balsamiffera)—This tree grows on the banks of streams and borders of marshy meadows. It is not a true cottonwood, but gets its common name from the fine white material, like cotton, which is shed from the seed pods when ripe. This, falling on the ground, gives the appearance of a recent small snow storm. The buds are viscid and aromatic in odor and are said to be medicinal in quality.

Alder (Alnus viridis)—This tree grows on the banks of the streams and in wet localities. In some instances it is found a good sized tree nearly two feet in diameter and fifty feet high.

Maple (Acer macrophyllum)—This is the only variety of maple found down near the floor of the Valley. It grows among the rocks at the base of the great walls. It never grows to a very large tree in Yosemite, the largest being only about one foot in diameter and forty feet high. It is remarkable for its large leaves, which in many instances are six inches or more wide. In the autumn its bright lemon-colored foliage makes it very conspicuous.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)—This variety of poplar gets its name from the constant trembling of its leaves, which move with the slightest impulse from the air. It is a small tree in Yosemite. Its native habitat is at a higher altitude.

California Laurel (Tetranthera Californica)—This variety of the California Laurel does not often grow to be a large tree in Yosemite. It is more like a large shrub than a tree. Its leaves are of a bright glossy green in color and when crushed emit a strong, pungent odor quite similar to that of bay rum. The, leaves are often used to protect woolen goods from the ravages of moths.

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