Michelle McLean, Project Co-ordinator, The Sugar Pine Foundation, Sept 2013

My inspiration for joining the Sugar Pine Foundation began through my friendship with our intrepid Executive Director, Maria Mircheva.  Maria to me is the heart of the Sugar Pine Foundation; determined, tenacious and forever cheerful in the face of adversity.  With someone like this leading the charge how can we fail?  So here I find myself working for the Sugar Pine Foundation.

But my love for trees goes much deeper. Born in Scotland I witnessed first hand the results of deforestation, not by disease, but through the hands of man. Our Highlands are beautiful eerie moorlands because man during early agriculture and the clearances cut down all of the trees.  During the two World Wars our native ancient woodlands were all but destroyed to provide boxes for ammunition.  Yet some small ancient pockets cling on, scattered across Scotland.

I grew up in Beith, which in the Gaelic Ogham means Birch and we once had the largest birch forest in Scotland.  Every year when I visit home I dread seeing less and less of our woodlands as tree by tree they are cut down to make way for housing developments.

When I stand amongst those ancient trees I feel a sense of peace, a connection somehow to our past and the hope in our future.  Some of the trees are so old that I can imagine my ancestors standing beneath that same tree.  That direct connection in itself is something worth saving for my children.

Frank Colver, OUR SUGAR PINE STORY, Aug 2013

During the 1970’s I was slowly building a mountain cabin on a north facing slope in Green Valley Lake, with the help of my wife and our three young children. The location is at 7,000 feet elevation in a small community in the San Bernardino Mountains of S. California.

On a picnic break one day, near a creek, I spotted a baby sugar pine buried under a thicket of scrub oak and brush. It was getting so little sun that the needles were a sickly looking yellow / green. I drove back to our cabin and got a bucket and shovel and went back to the place we had seen the seedling. I carefully transplanted the sugar pine to the middle of the open area on the side of our cabin.

Over about the next 30 or 35 years it grew to a stately looking and healthy tree. A strange thing about this little valley of Green Valley Lake is that there are native sugar pines scattered about the slopes outside of the area but none within the valley or its slopes. The natural forest there is made up of cedar, white fir, black oak, and Jeffery pine along with elderberry and willow. So our rescued sugar pine was the only one growing within the valley. In October of 2007 it was destroyed by wildfire along with the other pines and firs and the cabin that I had built so many years before.

We decided to rebuild and by fall of 2011 the new log home was nearing completion. We knew that we had to have a sugar pine again, so I got five seedlings from the Sugar Pine Foundation in October of 2011. After consulting a “conifer expert” at a large well respected nursery, in Newport Beach CA where we live, I mixed up the soil ingredients he suggested and potted the five seedlings. They were set in the sunniest spot (for the coming winter) that we had in the backyard in our coastal home. By the following spring only one had survived and it had been the “runt of the litter”.

On May 28, 2012 I planted the lone seedling on our land west of the cabin. I buried a chicken wire gopher barrier 18” in the ground around the planting and put a smaller cage around the tree itself. I mounted a water tank with timer nearby. I also was using a root growth stimulant and shock preventer chemical compound called Super Thrive.

During that first summer of 2012 I would water the tree every two weeks and fill the fifteen gallon tank which would water it at the one week interval, so it was watered once a week for that hot dry first summer (GVL gets very little summer rain). The very top tip of the trunk had died so it started growing three branches at the top. We assume that one or more of those will become a new top. The growth rate was very slow that first summer.

It survived its first winter sometimes out in sunshine and sometimes buried under snow and in its second spring started a vigorous growth of the three top branches. Now in the middle of its second summer it looks healthy and growing fast. It is not being watered as often this summer to encourage its roots to spread out.

So that is where we are now just shy of two years from when we purchased the seedlings. Please see the attached photos, the most recent being early July 2013.

Frank Colver August 2013. 

Five little seedlings

The five sugar pine seedlings Oct 2011  


                                                                                          The sole survivor in first snow 2012

      Still growing July 2013