My innovations.

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I have created my own solutions to several issues involved with tree studies.

The 'Sextant' Method

Measuring the height of a tree can be problematic if hovering over it in a helicopter and dropping a tape measure is not an option.

A photograph can be made with some sort of scale included in the image and later used in a computer to achieve a fair estimate of the height. This method has some drawbacks though. If the photo can be taken from far enough away from the tree so that the camera is square to the plane of the tree lens distortion will be minimal. However, when that is not possible (especially in wooded areas) the camera must be tilted to include the whole tree and the resulting image is distorted. However, this still gives a general idea of the height of the tree.

For this study I request that this method be included with the understanding that the height will not be absolutely accurate but will give a good idea of the height.

I use a number of methods of measuring tree height. Having been a surveyor I have instruments capable of very exact measurements and have modified a sextant to have another accurate method that is more portable. Other methods include an Abney Level and a Clinometer.

Click on this link "The Sextant Method" to see details on these systems.

Measuring a Tree With a Photo

Measuring the height of a tree can be accomplished using a photo of the tree with something in the photo to serve as a scale. An object of known length, a distinctive feature of the tree with the measurement of the feature and height above the base of the tree... anything that will provide an object of known length for setting the scale of the photo will do. For example, if there is a bird house on the tree the measurement of the height of the bottom of the bird house above the base of the tree would serve as a good scale.

Using the same calculations, substituting the figures for the spread of the crown, it is possible to calculate the spread of the crown as well.

Tree Cores

If any of you have taken tree cores you are well aware that getting the corer started into the tree can be frustratingly difficult. There are products on the market for making it easier. One such device costs $140.00.

I didn't want to invest that kind of money to solve the problem so I devised my own method. Using a piece of stout nylon line (which I call my $140.00 piece of rope) I am able to start the corer without exerting any extra force at all. I loop the cord around the tree and over the handles of the corer and tie it securely. Then turning the corer twists the line around the barrel of the corer and thereby shortens it exerting force on the corer that "pulls" the corer into the tree. When the corer is firmly into the tree I remove the rope and precede to turn the corer with little effort.

Plant Presses

I was given a little plant press by a good friend years ago. It was unique in that it used bolts to apply pressure instead of web straps. It was something made for sale in gift shops as a fairly usable novelty.

I expanded on the idea and used plywood instead of the pressboard used in the little plant press. I also improved on the use of the bolts so that opening the plant press and putting the top back on are simplified. The result is a convenient press that does an excellent job of pressing plants. if it is too much to carry into the field a standard web strap press can be used in the field and the plants transferred to the bolt press at the vehicle or at home by simply transferring the dryer sheets and separaters from the web strap plant press to the bolt plant press and tightening down the bolts.

I made three sizes of plant presses. Full size, half size and quarter size. That way I use what the size of the specimen calls for when pressing and drying specimens.

I also have been concerned when botanizing and picking up little items that I want to study further at home. Carrying little plants around while botanizing does the plants no good (they dry out, curl up and parts are lost) and remembering what they are, where they came from etc. is difficult. Therefore, I made little "Pocket Plant Presses" using standare plant press dryer sheets cut to pocket size and bound with spiral binding combs. I use a stout rubber band around the "booklet of dryer pages" to apply pressure and keep the specimens in the little dryer booklet and to begin the pressing process.

I also keep scraps of paper in the back of the pocket press to make notes to put with the specimen so I can properly document it when I transfer it to a proper press back at the vehicle or at home. I carry the Pocket Plant Press with me pretty much all the time and find it very convenient to collect small specimens anytime, anywhere.

Forced Air Plant Dryer

I learned that Herbariums use cabinets with forced warm air to reduce the drying process from weeks or months to hours. "I can do that." was my response to learning that. And that is just what I did.

I used a cardboard box that happened to fit the dimensions of a full size plant press. I installed a metal ‘shelf', with openings to allow air to flow through, near the bottom and punched a hole in the side below the shelf to allow a hair dryer to blow warm air up through the box. I place the plant press with the corrugations of the separators between the dryer sheets running up and down so the warm air passes through them. Drying for six or so hours (I usually leave them overnight) does an excellent job. My dryer cost a lot less than the cabinets used by Herbariums but then I am only drying small quantities of plants.

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