Pericopsis elata Family: Fabaceae
Afrormosia grows in both the wet and dry areas of Ghana, Zaire, Nigeria, Ivory Cost,
Congo and Camaroon. Trees reach a height of up to 150 feet with a bole (trunk) diameter
from 3 to 6 feet. The bole is slightly irregular but clear for 60-100 feet. It is also
known as andejen (Camaroon), assamela (Ivory Coast), kokrodua in Ghana, and ayin or egbi
in Nigeria. In the United States, it has been sold commercially under the names gold teak,
African teak (although it is not teak) and golden afrormosia.
The golden brown heartwood of freshly felled
afrormosia darkens on exposure. The fine texture approaches that of teak, but lacks teak’s
oiliness. Afrormosia is very stable, moving very little after properly dried. Specific
gravity is .57 and the wood weighs about 43 pounds per cubic foot. Afrormosia hasn’t
made its way on an Alembic.
Afrormosia was orignally used as a substitute
for teak in furniture building (hence its commercial names referring to teak). It is an
attractive, strong, stable and durable wood used in cabinet making, furniture, flooring,
and agricultural implements. Protected under the CITES treaty (Appendix I, 1993), a special
permit is required to import this timber.
Alnus glutinosa Family: Betlaceae
Alder is native to northern Europe and well distributed through Russia, western Asia and
Japan. In the Pacific Northwest, red alder (A. rubra) grows along streambeds and
reaches an average height of 50-90 feet. Grey alder (A. incana) grows in northern
Europe and Siberia. The leaves are a yellowy-green with paler undersides. Bark is
initially smooth and grayish-green, later turning grayish-brown and developing irregular,
small broken patches.
The dullish warm brown color of alder’s heartwood
is not particularly distinct from the sap wood. Alder has little luster and the more orange
color of freshly cut wood quickly matures to a subtler reddish hue. Weighing in at about
33 pounds per cubic foot, alder is fairly light weight compared to maple (about 45 lbs/ft3)
and mahogany (38 lbs/ft3).
Fairly straight grained, alder is used for broom
handles, wooden toys, and traditional wooden clogs. It is also considered among the ideal
woods for artificial limbs. Alder charcol is used for making gunpowder. Bass and guitar
manufacturers often use alder. For smoking or BBQ, alder is very delicate with a hint of
sweetness that’s good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.
Fagus grandifolia Family: Fagaceae
American Beech is typically 70 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter, with champion trees
reaching a height of 130 feet and a diameter of 6 feet. American Beech is found throughout
the eastern United States growing in deciduous forests that are also populated with Maple
and various Oaks.
Wind-pollinated seeds are distributed primarily
by the grey squirrel, which makes large seed banks of the dormant seeds. Beech is a
"mast-fruiting" tree. This means that a large crop of seeds is produced irregularly
(not necessarily every year).
Beech was a neglected species for wood production
until kiln drying. The wood has a tendency to crack when air-dried. The pale cream colored
sapwood can also have a pinkish-brown cast to it, but can be a ruddy color if steam bent.
American Beech weighs about 46 pounds per cubic foot when seasoned.
Because it is close grained, easy to shape, and
is very consistent, Beech has always been popular for making craftsmen’s tools. Beech is
used wherever a durable surface is required: school desks, laboratories, kitchens,
although today, most beech is consumed in the production of nitrocellulose lacquers.
Beech is also used for medical tongue depressors and ice cream sticks.
Ulmus spp. Family: UImaceae
During the 1930s, a shipment of logs infected with the bark beetle arrived from Europe.
These beetles also harbored a fungus, Ceratocystis ulmi, or Dutch Elm disease. The fungus
attacked the bark of the especially susceptible Elm trees, and then invaded neighboring
trees through their interlocking root systems. By the 1960s, more than 42 million elm
trees fell to this disease in the midwest alone. The fungus is now known to have originated
in Asia, where the Chinese elm is resistant.
Ulmus americana grows throughout north America
where it is also known as white elm, swamp elm, and water elm. U. fulva and U. rubra are
known as "slippery" elm for the mucilaginous inner bark that has historically been used
to sooth sore throats. Trees can reach a height of 50-80 feet with a trunk diameter of
1.5 to 3 feet. Trees grow to about half of their height in the first ten years.
Elm weighs about 36 pounds per cubic foot when
dried. The plain light reddish brown heartwood is used for many aspects of boat building,
especially any part that remains completely submerged in water. Elm is also used to make
hockey stick blades, wheelbarrow linings, and before cast iron pipe, elm was used for water
pipes. Leaves and shoots of the tree have also been used as livestock feed.
Fagus spp. Family: Fagaceae
Beech grows throughout northern Europe, Canada, America, Japan and western Asia.
American beech (F. grandifola) trees reach a height of about 120 feet; European beech
trees (F. sylvatica) can grow as high as 150 feet. Diameters range up to four feet. The
tree is slow growing and has abundant roots (even at the surface). Beech is often called
"the Mother of the Forest" since its leaves provide rich humus for the soil, and weeds
struggle to survive under its canopy, thus giving seedlings an advantage.
It is a very important forest tree, and 19% of Switzerland’s forest land is comprised of
beech (F. sylvatica).
Seasoned beech weighs between 39 lb/ft3 for
Japanese beech to 45 lb/ft3 for European and American varieties. The wood is very pale
cream to a pinkish sort of brown. It is typically straight-grained with little other
remarkable figure. It accepts stain well, and has been used with red stain to simulate
mahogany and with black for ebony. Beech is a member of the Fagaceae family, which also
Uses for beech include furniture, flooring,
medical tongue depressors, popcicle sticks, woodworking tools, school desks, plywood,
any steam-bending application (usually furniture). Beech has even found its way
into a number of 1975-1979 Series I and Series II body cores.
Acer macrophyllum Family: Aceraceae
Bigleaf maple is native to the Pacific Northwest, with a growth range from southwest
British Columbia through Oregon to southern California. It sometimes grows in pure
stands, and prefers stream banks and moist canyon soils. Maple is usually found at low
elevation (about 1000 feet) in the north of the range, and up to 5500 feet at the
southern edge of the range. The Puget Sound in Washington state has one of the densest
stands of bigleaf maple within its natural range.
Maple trees can be fairly large, up to about 100
feet with trunks up to 30 inches in diameter. The seasoned wood weighs 34 pounds per
cubic foot. A maple tree can live beyond three hundred years. Acer pseudoplatanus is
known as maple in England, while we know it in the United States as sycamore. Bigleaf
maple is also know as broadleaf maple, Pacific coast maple, soft maple and western maple.
The sapwood is a warm white with a greyish
cast. The heartwood is a pale golden color. Maple is not suitable for any application
where decay resistance is necessary, alothough you can steam bend, glue, nail, turn,
venner, bore or mortise it with great success.
The beautiful quilted maple we use comes from
mostly Oregon and Northern California. The coarse texture of the quilted maple makes it
more difficult than other wods to acheive a smooth finish. Any guitar dealer knows how
well maple accepts a stain. Finishing with stains or with clear paints enhances the grain
of the heartwood. Grain can be plain or very wild, ranging from flame and quilt to
blister, bird's-eye, and spalt (formed by a fungus). Bird's-eye maple typically exhibits
grey or tawny streaks caused by mineral deposits.
Besides the tops of Alembic guitars and basses,
you can find maple in fine furiture, cabinetry, picture frames, drawer slides,
wainscotting, even pallets. You've all enjoyed a springy maple bowling lane,
dance floor or a gymnasium floor, not to mention the springy tune "Maple Leaf Rag" of
Bloodwood is found throughout the Amazon basin in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and
Suriname, where it is relatively common. It is also known as Satine, Amapa Rana, Pau
Rainha, Falso Pao Brasil, Conduru, Satinwood, Muirapiranga, Satine Rouge, Satine Rubane,
Satijnhout, Doekaliballi, Satinholz, Ferolia, Legno Satino, Palo de Oro.
Yellowish-white sapwood is very clearly defined
from the strawberry red color of the heartwood, sometimes found with golden or greenish
stripes. Wood is fine texured and grain is straight to slightly interlocked. Bloodwood looks
similar to vermilion or padauk, but has a much less orange-red appearance. The beauty of
Bloodwood is color, don’t look for fiddleback, bird’s-eye or wild graining here. Bloodwood
is almost unnaturally red.
Bloodwood weighs from about 56 to 66 pounds per
cubic foot when seasoned, making it a relatively dense wood, but not too heavy. Uses include
billiard-cue butts, cabinetmaking, carvings, furniture, marquetry, organ pipes, turnery and
xylophones. The only record we’ve come across of a bloodwood Alembic is a 1975 custom
guitar, which is the featured custom for July on our website.
Myrtle is native southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. California myrtle is
also known as California laurel, Oregon myrtle, Pepperwood, Spice tree, and Bay laurel. The
only tree in its family found in the western United States, California laurel burls can
outprice any American wood when available.
Trees are commonly 40 to 80 feet (12 to 24 m),
with a trunk diameter of 18 to 30 inches (50 to 80 cm). Myrtle has a distinctive spicy
odor, hence common names of pepperwood and spice tree.
The heartwood is rich golden brown to yellowish
green, and is often variegated. The rather thick, pale brown sapwood is not clearly defined.
When seasoned, myrtle heartwood weighs about 39 pounds per cubic foot.
The grain is close, tight, and smooth.
California myrtle is reported to be highly prized for its excellent and swirling
stumpwood, clusters, and burls. Material from Oregon is reported to exhibit attractive
mottled figures which range from fine, delicate dark stripes to heavy splotches,
occasionally marked with gold and silver streaks.
California myrtle is used for cabinetmaking,
decorative veneer, furniture, interior trim, novelties, chairs, wainscotting and
turnery. When you visit southern Oregon, there are lots of trinkets and novelty souvenirs
made from myrtle available. Even Alembic guitars and basses from the early seventies
are sometimes graced with a swirly myrtle burl top.
Juglans hindsii Family: Juglandaceae
The beautiful flame California walnut we offer for instrument tops is Juglans hindsii.
On a British Admiralty worldwide coastal expedition in 1837, Richard Brinsley Hinds, the
surgeon-naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Sulphur discovered a tree species in the Sacramento
valley that now bears his name. The U.S. Forest Service’s official common name for this
tree is northern California walnut. It is also known as Claro walnut.
Famed botanist Luther Burbank grafted Juglans
hindsii root stocks with English-Persian walnut (Juglans regia) at the turn of the
century in Santa Rosa. The results amazed him and he named his new cultivar "Paradox"
because he couldn’t believe that a hardwood tree could grow so fast. We use some of these
grafted sections for bass tops (see the Series I and Series II in our brochure).
Northern California walnut trees reach a height
of 70-100 feet and a diameter of up to 5 feet. The mostly brown heartwood is commonly
streaked with red, orange, tan, purple and even a dull green. Fiddleback figure is not
You may also have seen northern California
walnut used for fancy gunstocks. The nut of the tree is small and sweet, perfect for
chocolate chip cookies!
Chloroxylon swietenia Family: Rutaceae
Ceylon satinwood is a medium sized tree from Sri Lanka and southern India. It should not
be confused with West Indian satinwood (Fagara flava). The wood is an extremely lustrous
golden yellow color that frequently exhibits mottled or "bee-wing" figure. Because of
its beautiful color, satinwood has been used in inlay work for centuries.
Satinwood has an average specific gravity of
.87, or just a little liss than ebony at .90. Satinwood's density, along with its narrowly
interlocked grain make it a fine choice for guitar and bass tops.
Although a mature tree can reach a height of 50
feet with a diameter of 10 feet, trees are rarely harvested at maturity. Most are cut
down when they are fewer than five inches in diameter. This makes obtaining satinwood
for guitar tops almost impossible. In fact, of the over 10,000 instruments we've made,
only about 25 have had satinwood tops. Most of our body shapes require lumber that is at
least 7" wide.
If you have an old blue Alembic catalog (from
1985), you can see a picture of John Lodge's satinwood Series I bass with a maple
fingerboard. The last satinwood bass we made was in 1991. The wood in wide widths is
that rare. Commercial supplies of satinwood are generally limited to veneer and items
like turning stock and small carving blocks.
Eucalyptus trees are a familiar sight throughtout the United States, but did you know that
of the over 700 species of Eucalyptus, only 12 are not native to Australia and only one
is native in the northern hemisphere?
Eucalyptus was heralded for years as a
fast-growing tree to use for fuel, building, etc. to save existing forests from over
logging. Some species are very intrusive, and E. globulus is listed as an exotic pest
plant by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council. It has been planted in plantations
in over 90 countries with Brazil having the largest, with over 1 million hectares of
Eucalyptus marginata is the most widely harvested
commercial timber in Australia where it is known as jarrah. It is used for construction,
especially marine structures.
Another commerically important type of eucalyptus
is E. diversicolor, or karri. As trees, karri and jarrah are easy to distinguish,
with karri reaching an enormous height of over 250 feet (jarrah is average for a
eucalyptus, at ony 100-150 feet). But the wood is harder to distinguish. A "splinter test"
can be performed: a small burnt splinter of karri leaves a thick white ash, while jarrah
burns to a black ashless charcoal.
About 20 eucalyptus species are used commercially,
with a surprising array of uses. E. marginate is used for building where termite resistance
is desirable. E. maculata and E. globus are commonly used for furniture. E. cameldulensis
is used for woodchips, fuel, paper and building. Portugal and Spain produce more than 50%
of the world’s eucalyptus oil, used in medicinals, perfumes and in industry. Bee
keepers plant certain eucalyptus for their high yield of nectar neccesarry to producing
It has been said that nothing is more
Australian than a eucalyptus tree. It was even reported by troops returning to Australia
after World War II that they could smell the eucalyptus before they sighted land from
Ocotea rodiaei Family: Lauraceae
Greenheart is an evergreen canopy tree that grows throughout Guyana and to a lesser
extent in Surinam and Venezuela. It is the principle commercial wood from Guyana and is
world reknowned for its excellence in marine applications. Trees reach a height of 70-130
feet with a large oval crown. The bole is straight and cylindrical about 50-80 feet long
with a three foot diameter.
Greenheart’s pale yellow-green sapwood fades
gradually into the heartwood. Heartwood ranges in color from light green, through the olive
greens, orangish-brown and dark brown, and is often marked with black stripes, sometimes
yielding a tortiseshell appearance.
With an average seasoned weight of 64 pounds per
cubic foot, Greenheart is no lightweight wood. It is 50% heavier than English Oak, but is
100% harder, 120% stiffer, and 140% stronger. Because of its strong resistance to marine
borers, Greenheart is used extensively in maritime applications. Many docks, locks,
jetties and pilings are made from Greenheart. Ship decks, engine bearers, gangways,
stern posts, and whalers sheathing are commonly made from Greenheart. You’ll also find
it in fishing rods, chemical vats, billiard cue butts and other turnery, and in the central
laminate of longbows. We made a few Series I and II instruments in the mid-seventies with
Ilex spp. Family: Aquifoliaceae
Holly grows throughout Europe from Norway down to the Mediterranean Sea, and then to Asia
Minor and parts of China. Ilex aquifolum produces the familiar European Holly.
Ilex aculeolata is found in southeastern China. In the United States, Ilex opaca grows
in the southeast. There are over 150 species of holly trees and shrubs. All holly produces
Seasoned holly weighs about 49 lb/ft3. The very
white to silvery-grey color of the heartwood is not sharply defined from the sapwood.
The grain is usually irregular, but the texture is very fine. Holly is often dyed black
to simulate ebony. Holly is dense and is difficult to saw and requires pre-boring for
nailing and screwing.
Holly is perhaps the whitest of woods, which
accounts for its use, along with ebony, (or holly dyed to simulate ebony) on many
chessboards. Holly is used for billiard cue butts, turnery, carving, and organ and piano
keys. When dyed black, holly is also used to make antique furniture repairs and for
inlay and marquetry. It is used as a substitute for boxwood for engraving blocks and
plaster molds. Ilex vomitoria (that's really the name) leaves contain caffeine.
When dried and steeped, they yield Yaupon tea.
Phoebe porosa Family: Lauraceae
Imbuia is sometimes marketed as "Brazilian Walnut" it is not really walnut (Juglans spp.),
but it’s rich chocolate brown heartwood does bear some resemblance to walnut. In Brazil it
is known locally as embuia, imbuyia, amarela, and canela imbuia. Other names inclue imbuja
and imbuya. The tree grows mostly in the moist Araucaria forests of Parana and Santa
Catharina in southern Brazil, mostly at altitudes of 2,500 to 4,000 feet forming rather
Imbuia trees reach a height of about 130 feet
with a diameter of about six feet. Freshly felled trees have a spicy resinous scent that
is mostly lost in the drying process. Sapwood is beige and clearly defined from the
heartwood. The heartwood brown, ranging from an olivey tone to a dark rich chocolate
color and is frequently verigated. Texture is fine with a high lustre. Dust can be very
irritating to the eyes, nose and throat.
Seasoned imbuia weighs about 41 pounds per cubic
foot and dries rapidly, so great care must be taken to help prevent warping. Imbuia is
not particularly strong, so it is used mostly in purely decorative settings.
In Brazil, it is considered to be one of the most
valuable woods for high class cabinetry faces. Light duty flooring is also available. Many
people love to carve and turn imbuia, so you will see chess sets and cue butts of imbuia.
Rifle butts and gun stocks are not uncommon. Sliced highly figured decorative veneers are
used to make architectural panelling. Taylor guitars uses imbuia on their AB-1 and
AB-2 acoustic basses.
Dalbergia cearensis Family: Leguminosae
King of the wood! The most beautiful of rosewoods, kingwood displays a rich violet-brown
heartwood, striped with black, and sometimes a golden yellow. In France, it is known as
bois violet. Other common names include, violete (Brazil) violet wood and violette in the
USA. Kingwood is well distributed throughout Brazil.
Small to medium 50-100 foot trees produce very
heavy timber at 75 pound per ft3. Once the sapwood is removed, exported logs range from 4-8
inches in diameter with 3-6 foot lengths. Because of the very small size of the finished
timber, we have not found a piece large enough to make an Alembic.
The natural waxy properties of kingwood allow
it to be hand polished to a beatutiful luster. Being a very hard wood, it does dull tools
rather quickly. Some people report a sensitivity to the dust.
Most billets are cut into veneers and therfore
lumber is somewhat hard to come by. Kingwood fingerboards are avaiable, and expensive.
Small turning blocks are frequently available and used by many hobbyists for pen making.
It is not uncommon for kingwood to find its way into billiard cues and gun grips.
Kingwood is also used for orchestral solo recorders. The veneer is in demand for
Pterocarpus indicus Family: Leguminosae
Narra occurs throughout southern and south east Asia where is is also known as "Papua New
Guinea rosewood" and "Soloman's padauk." It grows extensively thoughout the Philippines,
Cagayan, and Mindoro.It's a pretty big tree with an average height of 120 feet and a bole
(trunk) diameter of about 6 feet.
The sapwood is a pale yellowish color and is
clearly defined from the heartwood, which can vary greatly in color. It ranges from
golden-yellow to dark brick red. The darker, redder narra comes from slower growing
and poorly formed trees. The narra that grows in Cagayan is heavier and blood red. It can
exhibit grain qualities of mottle, ripple, fiddleback and curl.
The average weight is 41 pounds per cubic
foot when seasoned, but the darker the wood, the heavier it will be.
Used locally for cabinetry and furniture
as well as trim on boats and houses, narra is excellent for wood turning. It even made
its way into more than a few Series I and Series II instrument cores over the years.
Aspidosperma spp. Family: Apocynaceae
A customer sent in a history request for a used bass he just bought. The person that
sold it to him said it was previously owned by John Entwistle of The Who. We checked our
records and they agreed, but the top wood was something I'd never heard of on an Alembic
before: Peroba Rosa. This may be the only instrument we ever made from this wood.
The tree is from the south east area of Brazil.
Aspidosperma peroba is known as red peroba and rosa peroba. The tree is about 4-5 feet
in diameter and grows up to 125 feet.
It's a pretty hard wood, averaging 51 pounds per
cubic foot when dry. The heartwood varies, and can have purplish-brown patches with streaks
that turn orange brown on exposure. The wood has fine texture and is very uniform. The
sapwood is a creamy yellow and smoothly transitions to the heartwood.
Peroba tremida is yellow with golden patches.
Peroba poca is almost white, peroba rajada is pinkish-red with large blackish patches.
Peroba preta is rose-red with black streaks. peroba revesa has bird's-eye figure. Peroba
muida is red with darker red patches.
In Brazil, peroba rosa is used for construction
work, ship building and for cabinetry. Superior logs are sliced to produce a widely varying
and surprisingly beautiful array of figured veneers for architechural panelling.
Daniellia ogea Family: Leguminosae
This 100 to 150 foot tree from western Africa is known as Ehydua in Ghana, Fara in the
Ivory Coast, Oziyo and Daniellia in Nigeria, Nsou in Camaroon, Incenso in Portuguese
Ginea, and Faro in France. The tree is robust and frequently reaches a diameter of four to
The heartwood is a medium to dark brown color,
shallowly interlocked and fairly course in texture. The wood is somewhat gummy, and in
fact, the gum itself is used to make west African gum copal varnish. On occasion, the wood
exhibits an extreme "bee wing" figure pattern that rivals even the best piece of koa,
but you have to sort through alot of shedua to find it.
In the mid seventies, we had ample supplies of
this unique wood. It is harder to come by today, which is why we don’t offer it on a
regular basis. Shedua looks particularly nice when paired with a cherry core. Many Series
I and II basses and guitars were graced with beautiful shedua in the mid seventies.
Other Wood Information
Wood and Tree Structure
High-order, vascular (fluid-conduct-ing), perennial plants produce wood. These plants
include trees, shrubs and vines and are classifies according to size and growth habit.
Woody plants are also capable of adding growth layers every year.
If the species reaches at least twenty feet with
a dominant single stem (also called trunk or bole), then we call it a tree. If it is below
twenty feet we call it a shrub. Shrubs can have one or multiple stems. Woody vines climb
and have elongated stems.
In trees, if we slice crosswise through the
trunk, the structure of the stem is exposed. All structure of the wood is centered around
the pith, or medulla. The outermost layer of the tree is the bark, which is not really
considered wood. Just under the bark is the living layer of the tree, the cambium,
which produces the yearly growth rings.
Just below the cambium is the sapwood, the
conductive tissue of the tree. Sapwood is where the upward conduction of sap occurs.
This is somewhat like the circulatory system in animals. As the tree ages, the innermost
sapwood layers cease their conductive function and shut down. Then the sapwood becomes
heartwood and provides the mechanical support for the tree.
By understanding some of the basic features of
all trees, a deeper appreciation of the figure that we all love for guitars and basses
evolves. For instance, it is interesting to note that the figure in bird's-eye maple is
dervived from localized conical elevation of the growth ring where the grain swirls.
If you cut the wood right, each conical elevation resembles a tiny bird's eye.
Specific Gravity and Density
Specific gravity and density are two very useful measurements you can make from wood to
determine and predict many items, such as hardness and suitability for a given purpose.
Both measurements are used to compare woods and therefore it is important to define the
differences between them.
Density is the average weight per unit of volume.
In almost every Wood Lesson that highlights a particular species of wood, the density is
given. You can tell that ebony is much heavier for a given volume that basswood just by
reading their densities on a printed page. Since the size of wood can change greatly
(check out those swelled up doors and windows this winter), density can only be so accurate.
Density is a useful, but not the only, means to compare woods.
Specific gravity in wood is the ratio of the density of the wood compared to the density
of water. Specific gravity is sometimes called the density index. You can think of specific
gravity like this: black cherry is 0.5 the density of water and will float if dry;
lignum vitae, is 1.14 the density of water and will sink whether it's dry or wet. If
you're building a ship, it's important to know the specific gravity of the woods you
want to use.
Here are some specific gravities of some woods
that we use in the manufacture of Alembic instruments:
Please note that specific gravity can have a pretty wide range even within a given species.
Mahogany can range from .43 to .75, although the average is .48.
|Bigleaf maple||.48 ||Koa||.60|
In the western states, about half of forest fires are set by lightning strikes. In the east
and great lakes regions, most forest fires are started by careless humans. Fires set by
lightning strikes generally originate at the top of a ridge and work their way downslope
slowly. Fires started by humans destroy timber near roads and development and can be much
more destructive as it eats its way up a hill.
There are different types of forest fires. A crown
fire is one where the fire is only at the tops of the tress, and spreads by jumping with
the wind. It consumes branches and leaves and is difficult to fight because the fire is
high up, explosive and leaps over fire breaks. But if the forest is moist, it can recover.
A surface fire burns the material strewn on the floor of a forest: fallen branches, dead
leaves, and small shrubs or undergrowth. While many established trees can survive a
surface fire, small new growth trees are completely burned away.
Ground fire is different. These fires can
smolder for months below the surface of the forest floor and consume the humus,
vital for the health of the trees. Ground fires can emerge as surface fires and
develop into crown fires.
Fires are natural, and forests have adapted to
live with them. Without surface fires cleaning up the debris on the floor of the forest,
new trees couldn’t grow to replace older dying ones. Many trees, including redwood,
actually depend on fire to release seeds from their cones.
Remember when you’re camping this summer to use
camp fires safely. You need to brush away the litter down to damp soil in a circle
about six feet in diameter. Center your small fire in this circle. Don’t build a fire
next to a tree or in a windy area. Watch out for low branches too. When you abandon the
fire, make sure it is dead with no smoking coals.