By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Wondering what kind of tree that is just down the road?
Odds are, Keizer’s Wilbur Bluhm can tell you. He may have even been doing just that not too long ago.
Bluhm recently completed an inventory on all the trees in Keizer. He did the identifying mainly by walking each street in town over the last two summers.
“Early on, I figured I didn’t know where a lot of trees in Keizer were,” Bluhm said. “I figured I would have to do an extensive survey.”
Terri Hoag, chair of the Keizer Points of Interest Committee, asked Bluhm if he would be willing to do a survey of Keizer’s trees.
Hoag is among those impressed with Bluhm’s work.
“He’s done above and beyond what we thought would happen,” Hoag said. “He’s been having fun. We will have to think about what to do with all of this.”
After two summers of walking around town, Bluhm concluded there are 241 kinds of trees in Keizer, plus several he will go back and try to identify again next summer. It was a job the 85-year-old retired Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturalist enjoyed.
“I was interested and enthused in the idea,” he said. “It’s a tremendous amount of data.”
Bluhm, a Keizer resident since 1957, had a reason for doing the walking during the summers.
“The spring is before the leaves are out, so it’s harder to identify the trees,” Bluhm said. “In the fall, when the leaves drop, you’re looking at silhouettes. In the summer is where the identifying is pretty good. Trees like cherry trees have to be in flower to identify.”
Before starting, Bluhm had a map of Keizer with every street listed.
“I would fill in the streets I went down as I went along,” he said. “I knew that otherwise I would forget a street. Because of filling in the map, I avoided that.”
Bluhm had some tools at his disposal, including a clinometer to measure the height of trees. He measured both the height and diameter of each tree, recording each finding.
“I would walk down the streets and look at the trees,” he said. “If it was good sized and of interest, I measured it with the clinometer.”
The tool led to some humorous moments, as Bluhm had to be 100 feet away to get the measurement.
“Many people thought I was taking pictures of their home,” Bluhm said with a smile. “I wasn’t, of course. One day I met a Keizer policeman while using my rangefinder. I had a good visit with the officer.”
Once he had his data, Bluhm arranged his findings in alphabetical order, from Abies amabilis (a 26-foot Pacific Silver fir on Ventura Loop) to Zelkova serrata (a 46-foot Sawleaf Zelkova on Newberg Drive.
Bluhm found there are several nice tree-lined streets in Keizer, including Linda Avenue where he lives. He also found an oak tree on Verda Lane could be the oldest in Keizer – at least, until it fell in December.
“Some exciting trees have been planted in this city,” Bluhm said. “The biggest Ginkgo tree in the city is in our front yard. I planted it in 1960.”
The project helped expose Bluhm to more of his city.
“I absolutely appreciate Keizer more now,” Bluhm said. “Many of the streets I hadn’t been on before. I had a number of great visits while doing this. It’s been interesting.”