Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tree on a Squeeze Up

It’s tree-following week already!—time for a monthly report on the tree I chose to follow this year. But I’m on the road and getting further away from that fossilized palm frond each day. Not that it matters really—it’s just as dead and extinct as it was back in January. The problem is no internet access. Without Google, I can't write about some interesting palm topic, as I've been doing until now. But we’re not without trees, so instead I’m reporting on a local one … and relying on books. How retro!

Here in northeastern New Mexico, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a tree special enough to substitute for my fossilized palm (I knew Pat won’t mind). Yesterday, I found one. Introducing … (fanfare) … a juniper on a squeeze up!

This tree grows along the nature trail near the Visitor Center at Capulin Volcano National Monument. It’s probably a one-seeded juniper, Juniperus monosperma, said to be the “characteristic juniper” of the area. Rocky Mountain juniper also grows here, but it has more drooping branchlets and peeling bark.

Squeeze ups are blobs of magma. Geologists also call them tumuli but I think they say squeeze up just as often, though maybe not in academic publications. Squeeze ups form when a flow has cooled and solidified on the surface, but molten lava continues to flow underneath. Sometimes the magma squeezes up through a fracture in the crusty surface and forms a blob.

At first glance, the landscape here looks like any pinyon-juniper savanna, with trees scattered through grassland. But a closer look reveals that this really is a lava flow. Much of it has been obscured with erosion, deposition (dirt and debris), and plant invasion, but evidence is still visible: rocks, ridges and squeeze ups. Fractured volcanic rocks are great habitat for trees and shrubs, which send roots down to where water accumulates in cracks.
This lava flowed out of Capulin Volcano (cone in photo above), one of the youngest in the Raton-Clayton volcanic field. It came from a boca (Spanish for mouth) near the base of the volcano during one of the last stages of eruption. That was 56,000 years ago, just yesterday geologically speaking. Capulin is a well-preserved cinder cone, beautifully symmetric in spite of its age. Below, Capulin on right, younger Baby Capulin on left.
Squeeze ups seem to be fairly common on this lava flow. Some hide in the junipers, others stand in full view.

How did I get this post online? I sent it down the creek—a message in a bottle with instructions for relaying it to The Squirrelbasket, who kindly hosts our virtual gathering each month ;-)
You can check out the latest news here.


  1. Ha-ha! Love it, love it!
    There's always so much to learn from your posts - and somehow you always manage to talk about both trees AND rocks together.
    The word "squeeze up" is perfect - here we tend to think of "tumuli" as man-made - such as our Bronze Age round burial mounds or barrows.
    Enjoy your field trip.
    You probably deserve a prize for managing to join in via a message in a bottle :)

    1. That's interesting, Pat. I did not know "tumuli" before reading about volcanology of Capulin Volcano! If we use it for burial mounds here (US), it's not common, at least not where I've lived.

  2. Thank you to go through so much effort, i really enjoy your writing

    1. Thanks Jozien. And it would be great if you would join us in tree follwoing! Squirrelbasket explains the process here: https://squirrelbasket.wordpress.com/tree-following/

      Every month, from the 7th to the 14th, there is a page where you can add a link to your blog post--news about your tree. Look for it on the 7th here: https://squirrelbasket.wordpress.com/ (or in the list of blogs I read on my page).

  3. ehhh and i signed up to the following a tree, but what now? ehhh today i will pick a tree, i suspect that is the first thing, what next?

  4. Interesting. Don't think I've heard of squeeze ups before :)

    1. Erika -- Nor had I. I also did not know that "tumuli" are burial mounds as well, at least in the UK, until Pat mentioned it.