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WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 31, 2012, 10:11 PM

Jamestown home to one-of-a-kind North Dakota tree

Jamestown, ND (WDAY TV) - With their cold-weather tolerance, pine trees are a common sight in North Dakota neighborhoods, but one pine tree in Jamestown is different than any other in the state, and it could mean a new species for North Dakota.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Jamestown, ND (WDAY TV) - With their cold-weather tolerance, pine trees are a common sight in North Dakota neighborhoods, but one pine tree in Jamestown is different than any other in the state, and it could mean a new species for North Dakota.

About thirty years ago, Dennis Roaldson planted the whip of a pine tree in the front yard of his Jamestown home. Some relatives had picked it up in Montana on their way out to visit.

Dennis Roaldson - Jamestown Resident: “I didn't see a whole lot of difference. You know, at the time I thought, ‘Well, an evergreen is an evergreen.’"

Now, the tree has grown tall, and it has been brought to Roaldson's attention that this isn't any old pine tree. It's a subalpine fir, also known as a Rocky Mountain Fir, and apparently the only one of its kind growing anywhere in North Dakota.

The tree's distinctive purple pine cones point toward the sky, and then shatter, sending flaky seed-casings to the ground.

Dennis Roaldson: “The tree itself omits a very, very good fragrance. Certain times of the year more so than others.”

Subalpine fir typically grow in western Montana and Canada. The fact that this tree has done so well throughout the years has NDSU researchers wondering if they could introduce the species to add to North Dakota's biodiversity. They're hoping little saplings might soon begin grow throughout the state.

Dennis Roaldson: "You know, we've got all these diseases coming to the state of North Dakota. Like your Ash Borer, and Dutch Elm, and now, they say there's something with the pine. So, we're constantly losing trees in the state, so they're searching for other avenues.”

The discovery of the subalpine fir in Jamestown has NDSU researchers excited about the possibilities.

Todd West, an associate professor at NDSU, has pinecones harvested from the tree. Researchers will grow seedlings in University greenhouses, then transfer them to study locations throughout the state.

West says they hope to eventually make the tree part of the North Dakota landscape.

Todd West - Woody Plants Improvement: “It's all about species diversification now. We're looking to increase the availability of different plants. We have all the pressures of disease and insects that are coming in, and so the more diverse that we can be, the better off that we are.”

West says the process could take 10 to 20 years.

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