Larch Trees

By Cindy Olsen

When we decided to begin publishing a blog, it was because we wanted to share our knowledge and love of nature with our community. The hope is that we begin to look at nature as something that we are a part of rather than something we are separate from. There are incredible stories of nature taking place from sidewalk cracks to the forest conservancies like Sheldrake. What better way to introduce this blog than to take a closer look at the very tree that Larchmont is named after?

Larch trees (left) next to Original Manor House at Prospect and Elm Avenues

When Peter Munro was building the original Manor house in 1797, it faced Boston Post Road, which was already a busy street.

Munro needed something to block out the noise and dust from the road. His Scottish gardener brought in some Larch seeds from Scotland because the trees grow quickly and are very hardy. As a matter of fact, it is so hardy that the city of Venice, Italy is built almost exclusively of Larch wood.

The original Larch trees, that Munro planted, grew magnificently and towered 50-80 feet. When Edward Knight Collins purchased the land from the Munro’s, 50 years later, he named the parcel Larchmont, after the hilltop that was the site of the house, and the magnificent Larch trees. There are still 2 Larch trees on the original Manor House property. There were many more, but years ago they succumbed to a disease.

Winter photo of Larch Trees on Fountain Square
Larch Trees in Winter at Fountain Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike other evergreens, which keep their needles year round, the Larch is a deciduous conifer. It actually sheds its needles each fall. In the fall, their needles turn a distinctive golden yellow.

Larch tree in the Fall
Larch cones
Larch cones

 

 

 

 

 

When the needles fall, the small oval cones stay on the tree. In the Spring, pinkish female flowers, known as “larch roses”, will appear and transform into cones when pollinated.

One interesting fact about Larches is that they seem to be very efficient processors of Carbon Dioxide and can aid in countering the Greenhouse effect.

The Larch tree also has medicinal qualities that have been used for centuries in Asia to help women struggling with fertility issues. It is believed that spending the night under a Larch tree will help a woman conceive a baby. In European folklore, the larch was said to protect against enchantment. The wearing and burning of larch was thought to protect against evil spirits.

Maybe the magic is working, considering what a wonderful town Larchmont is and how many thriving children live here!

Can you find a Larch tree? See if you can find one and send us your photo!

Golden Eyes

By Mary B. Davis

Photo by Jim Sutherland
Photo by Jim Sutherland

There’s a cover of quiet over the earth on a wintry day. All seems cold and still, almost lifeless. But, let’s take a walk in the woods and who knows what you may see or hear? Peer into the branches and vines hanging fromtrees. You may be surprised to see the gleaming golden eyes of the Great Horned Owl calmly staring back at you. On the other hand, you may walk right by it, as it is so perfectly camouflaged and often keeps its eyes closed during the day.

Sitting silently, this owl looks like it’s just wisely waiting for winter to pass. But, as with each living thing in the natural world, it is bound not by our calendar, but by its own internal biological clock. As we stand there with cold, numbed fingers, it’s hard for us to imagine that it’s time for the Great Horned Owl to think about mating and nesting, but the ardor of this owl – the earliest of our nesters –is not the least bit dampened by winter’s chill.

If you haven’t found this owl by day, try taking a walk in the early evening on a moonlit night. Listen for the deep, muffled, mysterious hooting of the male and occasionally the females’ shorter and higher- pitched answer. (Listen to hoot here.) Once you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget it. If we could witness their courtship dance – the male bowing and sidling about his mate, sometimes caressing her with his bill – we might see the female rejecting her suitor’s advances until she is offered a substantial enticement like a rabbit. Then, after the feast, she may dance as vigorously as he! Once paired, they maybe seen roosting together during the day.

Great Horned Owls don’t make their own nest, preferring a hollow tree or a hawk’s old nest. Neither snow, sleet nor storms will keep both the male andfemale from taking turns sitting on their 2 or 3 white eggs. If left unattended, these eggs would surely freeze!

Skillful hunters, these owls have sharp eyesight, acute hearing, special soft-edged feathers for silent flight and strong feet and talons. One might think that food would be scarce in this frozen stillness. Actually, this is not an illogical time for a bird of prey to raise its young. Few tree leaves interfere with vision and animals awakened from their winter naps by hunger pangs may be slightly befuddled and not as wary as usual. A sleepy skunk, or a mouse scurrying out for a quick snack may be on the menu.

It is my hope that on one of your walks, you will be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this large, powerful and beautiful bird that is living right here in our suburban woods.