An enormous Sequoia tree is still smoldering and emitting smoke months after California’s devastating wildfires

smoldering tree in Sequoia National Park
A smoldering tree in Sequoia National Park, California, on April 22, 2021.

  • A tree in California’s Sequoia National Park is still smoldering months after a disastrous wildfire.
  • The tree is still burning from the Castle Fire which tore through the region in August 2020.
  • Embers inside the tree still continued to smolder even through the winter’s rain and snowfall.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An enormous tree has been found still smoldering and emitting smoke in California’s Sequoia National Park, months after historic wildfires devastated the region last August.

Officials discovered the tree, located in the Board Camp Grove, while surveying different areas of the park to determine the effects of the 2020 Castle Fire, according to a statement from the National Park Service.

The Castle Fire, which was sparked by a lightning bolt last summer, burned down more than 270 square miles of land before it was contained in December, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Photos of the tree show it spouting small plumes of smoke in the middle of a brown and blackened forest. Researchers say they discovered embers still burning inside the tree, which appear to have stayed there despite rain and snowfall in the winter.

But this persistent burning isn’t unusual. Mike Theune, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks told the Guardian that the inside of a tree can act like a wood-burning stove, feeding the fire enough oxygen for it to survive for long periods of time.

Theune added it was important to remember that many of the sequoias – the largest tree in the world in volume with an immense trunk – in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains had survived millennia of extreme weather, forest fires, and droughts, he told the Guardian.

“The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle Fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” said Leif Mathiesen, the assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, according to the Guardian. “With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer.”

Firefighters were battling nearly 100 major blazes across the West Coast last summer. Climate scientists have warned that these giant blazes will only become more frequent as the planet warms.

California’s nine largest wildfires ever have all occurred since the year 2000, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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A pound of cinnamon quills can cost $27 – here’s why it’s one of the most expensive spices

  • Ceylon cinnamon is made from the dried inner bark of a tree native to Sri Lanka.
  • One pound of these quills can cost $27. That’s because it’s difficult and costly to produce.
  • Even some of the most experienced cinnamon peelers can only make a few pounds of quills a day.
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Following is a transcription of the video.

Narrator: Ceylon cinnamon is native to just one region of the world, and producing it requires hours of delicate work. Even the most skilled workers can make only a few pounds of quills a day. One pound of cinnamon quills can cost $27, but not all spices labeled cinnamon are the Ceylon variety. Many in the Western market are actually cheaper types of cinnamon called cassia. So what makes Ceylon cinnamon so favorable? And why is it so expensive?

Ceylon cinnamon is named after the old British name for Sri Lanka, and it is often considered “real” cinnamon. It is made from the dried inner bark of a tree called Cinnamomum verum. Growing these trees is an investment. Farmers must wait four years after a tree is planted before they can begin harvesting. At harvest, workers break down the branches early in the morning, when the bark is still moist. Ruwanpura must continuously care for the trees throughout the year, otherwise the branches won’t be suitable for making cinnamon at all. The rigorous nature of this job has only just begun.

Now peelers must do the delicate and essential work of stripping the inner bark of each branch by hand. This is the most labor-intensive part of the process, and it’s not as easy as simply shaving the outside of the bark as you would the skin from a potato. To produce the most valuable cinnamon, the bark must be made extremely thin. The thinner the quills are, the more costly they will be. Ruwanpura has spent 40 years mastering this skill. Soon after the bark is removed, each piece dries under the sun and curls up within a few minutes. After drying, the small pieces are stuffed inside a straight piece of bark, forming one 42-inch quill. By the end of a long day, workers will have only produced about 3 pounds of quills. Those then need to dry for three to four days before they’re packed into bales and sent off to a separate facility. That’s where there’ll be graded and officially priced based on their width.

PDRomanis and Sons buys bales of cinnamon from various peelers. At its facility, quills are graded over 10 scales. The most valuable quills are classified as Alba. It takes a peeler four times longer to produce one kilogram of Alba than to produce the same quantity of lower grades. The leftover, smaller cuts are turned into ground cinnamon and make up the cheapest form. But even the most valuable quills are often confused with a more widely accessible and cheaper variety of cinnamon.

Cassia comes from another kind of cinnamon tree, called Cinnamomum cassia, and it doesn’t require as much time or effort to make. Cassia bark is hard and sturdy, so quills are made as one curled piece of bark without the fillings. Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is tender and soft and needs those inner layers to prevent the quill from breaking. Cassia is very fragrant and brown, whereas real cinnamon is paler, with a milder flavor. Cassia also contains, on average, higher levels of coumarin, an organic compound that can cause liver damage if consumed in large amounts. This is why researchers say Ceylon cinnamon is ultimately the healthier option. But if you’re buying cinnamon in the US, it can be hard to tell the difference between them.

Part of the confusion between the two comes from the use of the label cinnamon. In the US, it is legal to label both Ceylon and cassia cinnamon as cinnamon, while in the UK and other countries, cassia must be labeled cassia and cannot be classified simply as cinnamon. Regardless of what it’s called in the US, consumers worldwide prefer the real thing. In 2018, Ceylon cinnamon accounted for more global revenue than any other variety. And even as demand is expected to grow through 2025, climate change already poses a serious threat to cinnamon production. In recent years, Sri Lanka has experienced droughts over several months. And these long periods of dry weather can kill cinnamon trees, which need marshy, wet soil to survive. There’s also a shortage of cinnamon peelers, another threat to production that’s likely to drive up prices. This industry relies on experienced peelers who can practice the difficult work of making these quills over many years.

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