Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tree Down

I’m drawn to any catastrophe in the woods, so I thought I might as well talk about this third common occurrence resulting from the spring storms. I mentioned that many dead standing trees were helped to the ground by heavy rains and wind. Live trees were not immune to these same effects. It’s always sad to see such a tall, straight tree turned into a horizontal ground ornament.

This tree was growing in only 18 inches of soil. It did its best to put down a strong root system, but limestone bedrock thwarted those efforts. When reaching the unyielding substrate, the roots were turned aside. Even though they became large and strong, the roots could not gain a hold. The combination of water soaked leaves, saturated ground, poor footing and strong wind took the tree to the ground.

It’s evident that this was not the first tree to fall here. The many saplings in the area began their growth when past fallen trees allowed sunlight through the forest canopy. There were no saplings or any other shrubby understory 25 years ago. Past land use activities had effectively eliminated them. Now, each falling tree allows another section of woods to begin development of a shrub and sapling layer. Despite the piling up of bodies, the woodland ecosystem continues to improve.

It’s unlikely for a tree to fall without damaging other trees in the process. Here’s a Sugar Maple sapling bowed over and pinned to the ground. It’s still alive and will most likely continue growing. In a few decades it could be one of those odd shaped trees that people wonder about. The slightly larger maple in the background didn’t have enough flex to survive the bend. It made a rather spectacular example of a shattering tree trunk. The top of the tree is dead, but basal shoots should develop rather quickly.

This tree was also left in an interesting position. The bark is still upright, while the inner wood has been pulled away.

It’s almost as though the bark had a press and seal seam that opened to release the tree and then sealed itself after the tree departed. The empty bark is still healthy and pliable. I don’t suppose it’s possible, but it would really be interesting if the bark remained alive and sprouted some branches.


  1. Amazing shots. It will be interesting to see what it looks like over the next year and beyond.

  2. Seeing a tree that has been knocked or blown over while it was still alive always makes me feel sad too. I feel like I've lost a friend, and you can't replace something that large and old. I just try to look at the bright side, pun intended. Fallen trees do make great cover for wildlife and, like you said, open up the canopy for other things to grow.

  3. Thanks, Lois. I'll keep an eye on that area and report if anything unusual occurs.

    Hi, Julie. The tree will now be a comfortable place to sit. It'll take many years before it finally decomposes.