A new tree for N.D.? Seed from rare tree here being planted at NDSUA Jamestown man’s tree is serving as the basis for an effort to add biodiversity to the North Dakota landscape. Seeds gathered from the only subalpine fir in North Dakota are being planted in the greenhouses of North Dakota State University with hopes of learning if the species can become a regular part of the state’s landscape.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A Jamestown man’s tree is serving as the basis for an effort to add biodiversity to the North Dakota landscape.
Seeds gathered from the only subalpine fir in North Dakota are being planted in the greenhouses of North Dakota State University with hopes of learning if the species can become a regular part of the state’s landscape.
“About 1980 I dug out a couple little whips of trees out in Montana,” said Dennis Roaldson of Jamestown. “The other trees had to be taken out when they got too large but this one has done well.”
Roaldson confessed to not knowing what tree species he had planted 30 years ago.
“To me an evergreen is an evergreen,” he said.
Some years later Vern Quam, Jamestown city forester, identified the tree as a subalpine pine. When he entered it in the North Dakota Forest Service’s Champion Tree Program he found out the tree was not only the largest but the only subalpine fir in the state.
“It is kind of rare to see a tree outside its native area that is doing so well,” Quam said.
The tree has soft short needles that give off a distinctive and pleasant scent. The tree is distinctive from other firs in that the cones form only at the top of the tree and shatter while still on the tree dispersing the seeds on the ground below.
“The cones are purple,” Quam said. “That is distinctive about the tree too.”
Quam gathered the cones and seeds Aug. 24, with the assistance of Mike Lacher of Artie’s No. 1 Tree Service. The seeds were furnished to Todd West, associate professor for woody plants improvement at NDSU.
“We are trying to develop a population to see if it is a suitable tree for widespread use in North Dakota,” he said. “This is a tree that is outside its native range and doing well so we want to see if it’s suitable for the tree industry.”
West said the process takes one to two decades.
“We have to create enough population to test in different soil types and for hardiness,” he said.
Seeds gathered this year will be added to the seeds started in greenhouses at NDSU last year. In another year or two the seedlings are transferred to test plots and monitored. Ultimately, the best trees are selected for further seed gathering.
The long process may ultimately add another species of tree to the North Dakota landscape.
“The idea is diversity,” West said. “We are battling new diseases and pests all the time that threaten existing species. Adding a new species could give us another hardy tree.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org