The Mountains of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about The Mountains of California.
and yosemite valleys.  The trunk is usually short, dividing near the ground into great, wide-spreading limbs, and these again into a multitude of slender sprays, many of them cord-like and drooping to the ground, like those of the Great White Oak of the lowlands (Q. lobata).  The top of the tree where there is plenty of space is broad and bossy, with a dense covering of shining leaves, making delightful canopies, the complicated system of gray, interlacing, arching branches as seen from beneath being exceedingly rich and picturesque.  No other tree that I know dwarfs so regularly and completely as this under changes of climate due to changes in elevation.  At the foot of a canon 4000 feet above the sea you may find magnificent specimens of this oak fifty feet high, with craggy, bulging trunks, five to seven feet in diameter, and at the head of the canon, 2500 feet higher, a dense, soft, low, shrubby growth of the same species, while all the way up the canon between these extremes of size and habit a perfect gradation may be traced.  The largest I have seen was fifty feet high, eight feet in diameter, and about seventy-five feet in spread.  The trunk was all knots and buttresses, gray like granite, and about as angular and irregular as the boulders on which it was growing—­a type of steadfast, unwedgeable strength.

CHAPTER IX

THE DOUGLAS SQUIRREL (Sciurus Douglasii)

The Douglas Squirrel is by far the most interesting and influential of the California sciuridae, surpassing every other species in force of character, numbers, and extent of range, and in the amount of influence he brings to bear upon the health and distribution of the vast forests he inhabits.

Go where you will throughout the noble woods of the Sierra Nevada, among the giant pines and spruces of the lower zones, up through the towering Silver Firs to the storm-bent thickets of the summit peaks, you everywhere find this little squirrel the master-existence.  Though only a few inches long, so intense is his fiery vigor and restlessness, he stirs every grove with wild life, and makes himself more important than even the huge bears that shuffle through the tangled underbrush beneath him.  Every wind is fretted by his voice, almost every bole and branch feels the sting of his sharp feet.  How much the growth of the trees is stimulated by this means it is not easy to learn, but his action in manipulating their seeds is more appreciable.  Nature has made him master forester and committed most of her coniferous crops to his paws.  Probably over fifty per cent. of all the cones ripened on the Sierra are cut off and handled by the Douglas alone, and of those of the Big Trees perhaps ninety per cent. pass through his hands:  the greater portion is of course stored away for food to last during the winter and spring, but some of them are tucked separately into loosely covered holes, where some of the seeds germinate and become trees.  But the Sierra is only one of the many provinces over which he holds sway, for his dominion extends over all the Redwood Belt of the Coast Mountains, and far northward throughout the majestic forests of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.  I make haste to mention these facts, to show upon how substantial a foundation the importance I ascribe to him rests.

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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