Springtime, and a young man’s thoughts turn to…

…rust spores, of course. Endocronartium harknessii. Here’s my new grad student (from Haiti) out learning a little forest pathology, and collecting some samples for my course next fall. Western gall rust, scourge of the lodgepole pine (and sometimes ponderosa). The urediniospores are out now and flying around by the billions, these are some small scruffy trees on a few acres just bought in north-central Idaho, they’re loaded with galls. contina rust

rust spores

Good thing these fungi are host-specific!  (at least they don’t infect people)  This week we’ll go out after WPBR, there are a few white pines on the property, previous owner planted supposedly “resistant” stock after more or less highgrading all the timber. I know a few local spots with white pine in sufficient numbers to find some rust, hard to believe that the former “King Pine” (=wwp) is the state tree of Idaho, many Idahoans have never even seen one.


9 thoughts on “Springtime, and a young man’s thoughts turn to…”

  1. Long long time ago, when I was logging in Targhee…we stumbled upon what we called “the crooked forest.” Cut a pickup load of “cankered covered” 4″ dbh posts and that winter made a couple very cool “book cases” out of them with barn wood for shelving. Always wanted to make more…took 30 years to find out they were “Gall rust” LOL. Half the summer cabins out there featured “gall rust” columns for their porches. I even think that Old Faithful Lodge has some “gall rust” railings.

    The following image summed it all up for me:

  2. The unlogged areas of the Oregon Cascades have Idaho White Pine of size in places. 3′-4′ dbh trees. Find them with nobel fir and silver fir stands. Mostly at elevations over 3500′. Above the mean annual winter snow line. On north slopes with Alaska yellow cedar, magnificent devil’s club with pie pan size leaves and two inch thorns. Well drained but wet, shaded and cooler. The sugar pines are more on the south slopes. Get into the Umpqua drainage and you see some six to eight foot sugar pines. They have to be the most fire proof of trees once they get to a certain size. You find them with DF that is half their size and half their age, but all older than 300 years. Just over the summit of the Cascades, in the transition forests, you will see some IWP along with sugar and ponderosa, shasta red fir, and a whole host of species. Lax USFS fire concern is rapidly allowing the transition forests to be burned through, with a lot of stand replacement fire. But where you can find it in an older age grouping, it sure has a host of species variety and sizes. Probably the most interesting of the Cascade forests. Even more so than the Siskiyou complex with all the hardwoods and nut trees.

    • We have had the pleasure of working up in that area for the last three summer. (This will be our last summer on this salvage sale.) Interesting area, combined influences of western Oregon and drier colder central Oregon. Hugh white pines, noble fir, mountain hemlock, alpine fir, sugar pine, of course Douglas fir, and a few other species that have a tendency to confuse us, not being familiar with this type of forest. One thing we learned is that the dead wood holds up much better in this colder climate as compared to the coast.
      I have seen some Alaskan Yellow cedar, (being a admirer of Port Orford cedar, I am always on the outlook for cedars.) but never anything very large.
      I always thought the older Siskiyou forests are hard to beat for variety, but these forests are definitely unique. I always feel lucky getting to work and visit up there.
      I have seen many young white pine that are turning yellow.

    • Rust never sleeps. Though, with climate change predictions for a trend towards hotter, drier conditions in this region, it seems a little strange to hear complaints about too much rain. Is this a phenomenon of climate change, or just a variation in climate? Fears about rust diseases are ancient, the ancient Romans had a festival (Rogalia) to appease Robigo, the god of (wheat) rust, sometimes by sacrificing a rust-colored dog. Here’s what Ovid wrote about plant diseases, especially rusts (I always read this for my class when we discuss rust diseases) –

      ‘The rains will be your sign, when the Dog’s mentioned.
      On this day, returning to Rome from Nomentum,
      A white-robed throng blocked my road.
      A priest was going to the grove of old Mildew (Robigo),
      To offer the entrails of a dog and a sheep to the flames.
      I went with him, so as not to be ignorant of the rite:
      Your priest, Quirinus, pronounced these words:
      ‘Scaly Mildew, spare the blades of corn,
      And let their tender tips quiver above the soil.
      Let the crops grow, nurtured by favourable stars,
      Until they’re ready for the sickle.
      Your power’s not slight: the corn you blight
      The grieving farmer gives up for lost.
      Wind and showers don’t harm the wheat as much,
      Nor gleaming frost that bleaches the yellow corn,
      As when the sun heats the moist stalks:
      Then, dreadful goddess, is the time of your wrath.
      Spare us, I pray, take your blighted hands from the harvest,
      And don’t harm the crop: it’s enough that you can harm.
      Grip harsh iron rather than the tender wheat,
      Destroy whatever can destroy others first.
      Better to gnaw at swords and harmful spears:
      They’re not needed: the world’s at peace.
      Let the rural wealth gleam now, rakes, sturdy hoes,
      And curved ploughshare: let rust stain weapons:
      And whoever tries to draw his sword from its sheath,
      Let him feel it wedded there by long disuse.
      Don’t you hurt the corn, and may the farmer’s
      Prayer to you always be fulfilled by your absence.”

      • hi mike: Western gall rust is a fungal disease that’s especially common on lodgepole pine. Lodgepole pine is an important species here in Idaho and elsewhere. Ovid was a poet in ancient Rome. You can look all these things up, and don’t need to take my word for it. If you have trouble finding material, write to me at the address below and I’d be glad to help you out. If you do, please use your real name so I can take you seriously. You can reach me here:
        Guy Knudsen, PhD, JD
        Professor, Plant Pathology & Microbial Ecology
        Plant, Soil, and Entomological Sciences Department
        University of Idaho
        Moscow, ID 83844-2339


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