Submitted by Don Doman.
Who lives the longest on Earth? Trees.
Who never dies of old age? Trees.
What communicates, nurtures both their old and young, fights for existence, supports their community, and stays connected to their relatives? Trees.
“Trees are more than just part of our natural landscape. They provide shelter and food for wildlife, absorb carbon dioxide and produce breathable air, and add to the beauty of the world.” –precisiontreemn.com/tips/14-fun-facts-about-trees.html
I think the only thing bad about a tree is that it can’t play fetch.
Have you ever had a favorite tree? I’ve had several. Growing up on South Ferry Street there was a plum tree in our yard. I would climb it, sit in it, read in it, and drop down from it into my neighbor’s yard where my best friends lived. At our first house my wife and I purchased on North Oakes, there was a tulip tree that our windows overlooked. Our madrona on North Huson, is a favorite tree. The deer eat the leaves on the lower branches; we hang plants from the limbs; and we just love the colors, the curling bark, and the dips and curves of the branches.
We used to have a cedar near the southwest corner of our home. It was great for privacy, but the needles were creating their own eco-system on our roof and the pollen nearly killed Peg off a couple of times a year. It had to go. We talked to Dan Folk of Apex Tree Experts and he walked around our yard with us and talked about or trees. A pear tree in the shade of the Cedar was almost hollow, the birches had been pushed to the side by the cedar and would be a constant danger if we cut down the cedar. Peg couldn’t breathe, so we said goodbye to the pear, the birches, and the cedar. The Apex Tree Experts felled the cedar right where they said it would go. When it hit the ground the cloud of pollen enveloped me and my camera.
I hated to see the cedar come down. It was like an old friend. We eventually replaced it with a sculpture which contains the elements of curves and shadows of our trees. Recently, I walked past our library table, just inside our front door where we place mail and keep a basket for keys. We use the table as a staging area for going somewhere or returning home. . . a book caught my eye. It was The Hidden Life of Trees. I stopped in my tracks. On the cover, beneath a picture of three trees and their connected roots it read “What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World. I wanted to belong.
We had an appointment in Federal Way, so I asked Peg to read to me from the book while we drove north. Peg reading to me is one of my life’s joys. While she kept the appointment, I stayed in our car and began reading. By the time I had read the Foreword, the Introduction to the English Edition, and the Introduction, I was hooked.
I loved the story of the Yellowstone wolves being re-introduced to the park in 1995. When they had left the park in 1920, the elk herds grew and with their increase in numbers they began to eat the aspens, willows, and cottonwoods along with streams. The vegetation declined, the food source the animals, the animals left, too. When the wolves were re-introduced the elk herds had to keep on the move and browsing on the young trees ceased. The trees came back and with them the other animals.
Some people disagree with the impact that wolves and trees played on the elks, but that doesn’t change the results.
“Whatever the cause, the re-emergence of the tree stands has park officials closely monitoring the animals that depend on them – like the birds and especially beaver. Beaver dams on streams and creeks raise the water table in the vicinity, increasing moisture levels and fostering the growth of even more trees.” – Did wolves help restore trees to Yellowstone? – pbs.org/newshour/science/wolves-greenthumbs-Yellowstone
The Hidden Life of Trees is an amazing book. It explains why trees along roadways and in parks don’t live as long as they would in a forest: their roots are cramped by compacted earth. The roots and grow as deep and wide as they need to, as well as water has difficulty seeping deep into the soil. “Like animals, trees have memories. They are able to compare the amount of daylight from one day to the next so they know when to let their leaves fall.” The book is written by a European, so it is written more non-linear than we are used to, but it is a worthwhile read.
Trees are so unusual; the quaking aspen is the Earth’s largest living organism. It grows clones and sends up sprouts from the roots. A quaking aspen clone in Minnesota is estimated to be thousands of years old.
Trees are bigger than we are and can live longer than we can . . . perhaps they are even smarter than us. Now, if they could only play fetch.