Rural Reading: Sad to witness a tree dyingBy Adrian Lawson
August 17, 2012
It is sad to see a tree die, but I am watching the slow death of a beautiful copper beech.
I pass it several times a week and it is a beautiful sight – taller than many of the trees around it, and with a trunk so wide three people can just about touch hands at full stretch around it.
The base of the trunk, where it meets the soil, has broad knuckles of the roots that disappear into the ground, and water collects there after rain.
The tree has withstood many storms – it might be 150 years old, maybe more.
I get the feeling we soon might know for sure.
At the base of the tree in autumn there is a mass of the giant polypore, a simply enormous fungi that is sometimes a meter across. This is a killer, eating away at the tree until it dies.
It has killed two big beech trees nearby, and is now on this one.
The next storm might well blow it over, or perhaps someone will notice the tree is sick and chop it down.
In the meantime the crown of the tree is becoming sparse, there aren’t as many leaves as there used to be and there are a few dead branches.
What is much more sad is to see so few trees coming on to replace it. It is, of course, entirely normal for a tree to die eventually, but none of its seeds are ever going to grow into new trees. A few trees have been planted nearby, but not many, and only one copper beech.
That tree is close by, and will probably be next in the relentless march of the giant polypore.
The copper beech is the deep purple one, not the ordinary bright green one.
In nature a few turn up among the seedlings from the green variety, and they are much sought after. I prefer the green variety normally, but this particular tree is a special one.
It is on my regular walk, I have often sat under its shade, I have taken photos from under the canopy in the coppery light that filters through on a sunny day.
I expect it will last a while yet, it might even outlive me. I hope so, because I will really miss it if it goes.