Winter Storms and Fallen Giants

During the recent storms with strong winds and heavy rain, buildings weren’t alone in being damaged. Many large trees, some very old, have been blown over and uprooted by the extreme winds. Although wind is a natural phenomenon, areas in the lowlands that rarely experience winds have been exposed to an intensity of wind not seen in many years. In midst of all these storms an oak tree outside my home, probably a few hundred years in age, has collapsed quite dramatically in the centre of a field.

Despite ultimately falling victim to extreme weather, the old tree looked almost dead last summer and has clearly been suffering from compaction and debarking by livestock for many decades. It may serve as an example of the worst-case scenario caused by consistent poor management of ancient and veteran trees. Perhaps it could be retained in some form, however, as a significant deadwood supply that could last for a significant length of time.

The Fallen Oak

The uprooting of the tree did reveal some interesting features that weren’t visible when the tree was still alive. The most surprising of these was the small alder or hazel that had started to grow on the fertile mulch at the base of the branches. I hope to salvage this small tree a replant it somewhere along a local brook, since now the oak has fallen, this young tree will be browsed away by the cattle later this year if not relocated. From what I have read online it’s not too uncommon for a tree to begin growing inside another older tree and many wood pastures have such trees, which are able to escape from the browsing pressures of livestock and deer.

A Tree Within a Tree

The other interesting feature I was able to see, with the tree now fallen, was the hollowing out that was occurring within the trunk unseen. Presumably, as the heartwood began to die and rot, fungi took advantage of the situation and by growing many external fruiting bodies over a number of years managed to remove quite a lot of the dead heartwood from within the tree. I noted the structure of some of the remaining heartwood was quite different the broken branches further up, and I can only assume the fungi have had an effect on this wood in some way, but this is only a guess.

Structure of the Remaining Heartwood

One thought on “Winter Storms and Fallen Giants

  1. How interesting to be able to observe at close hand what has been going on within this ancient oak. I hope you can complete a successful re-homing of the seedling tree which has grown in such close proximity with the oak.

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