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ACORNS SO BIG...

editor: In "Michigan's Discriminating Troubadour" ( Winter 2002), Gary Lantz describes the Kirtland's warbler as "a mighty flier not much bigger than a bur oak acorn." I would interpret that literally, however, the forester in me says that a large bur oak acorn may stretch itself out to maybe two inches across and maybe weigh up to a half-ounce. Might the author have mistakenly referred to a juvenile Kirtland's warbler, rather than an adult, i.e., "mighty flier"? Perhaps he was referring to its eggs?

Ronald E. Bonar

US Forest Service, Savannah River

New Ellenton, South Carolina

Gary Lantz responds:

I have on my desk a bur oak acorn collected along my favorite prairie stream that's approximately 3 112 inches across, including the ample fringe skirting the cup. Sibley's Guide to Birds gives the overall length of a mature Kirtland's warbler at 5 314 inches, including tail.

I tend to regard the tail as an appendage rather than part of the mainframe, so if you count the acorn cup on my bur oak acorn and dismiss the tail on the warbler we're in the ballpark. Basically though, the metaphor was meant to make the distinction to a lay audience that the Kirtland's is a very small bird indeed, a real mighty mite compared to say, a robin or a cowbird. We're talking creativity as opposed to pure science, yet I'm sure you'll agree that exact measurements can't convey the amazing energy and beauty compressed into a warbler's tiny frame, which oftentimes seems not much bigger than the thumbnails of the football players we grow out here in cowboy country. I guess in this case the eye of the beholder gets the nod. Send me your address and I'll send you an Oklahoma bur oak acorn next fall, so you can see for yourself why the comparison came to mind.

THE IRREPLACEABLE ELM editor: With respect to the Tree Doctor's response (Winter 2002) to the question of whether or how cuttings could be taken from the dying elm at Locust Grove Historic Home, I have a question and a comment. If reproducing an elm from a cutting is, at best, extremely difficult/virtually impossible, how are the 11 resistant" elm varieties being propagated true to the parent?

I respectfully disagree that a zelkovia looks much like an American elm and with the assertion often made (not by the Tree Doctor explicitly) that it can be a more or less suitable replacement for an elm. I think anyone hoping for an even somewhat comparable replacement will be disappointed. It is at best a midsized tree at maturity, while elms were high-trunked, full-sized shade trees.

In such an instance, I think the pin oak, for example, would be a much better choice. It's a fast-growing, full-sized shade tree that tolerates compacted soil and transplanting well (all characteristics of the elm). It and the tulip poplar (if the site is not heavily traveled) provide the relatively upright, columnar effect of elms when lining streets. For the relatively light shade of the elm's smaller leaves and seeds, consider a thornless, seedless honeylocust cultivar.

The zelkovia may be a nice tree in its own right, but I do not believe it should be suggested as a replacement for an elm, even "sort of"

William Lawrence III Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PRAISE FOR GOOD MANAGERS

editor: This month marks my 50th year in Mendocino County, now as a retired industrial consulting forester with an emphasis in California redwoods. For over 25 years I was the leading redwood appraiser for the Save the Redwoods League in its acquisition contributions to both coastal and inland sequoias.

I am fortunate to have signed up for your Life Membership some time past and treasure your publications. …