I’m interested in tree stumps because firstly, they can continue to live on after falling down or being cut down, sometimes even in the absence of any leaves, if they are connected underground to other trees via the mycorrhizal network (known colloquially as the ‘wood wide web’). Irrespective of whether the stump itself lives on, it supports life in one form or another. I have started a photographic study of tree stumps, as a way to explore this. So far I’m noticing stumps either regrow foliage, or become a home for mosses and fungi.
I thought this tree was worthy of a post all to herself. On a night of very high winds in June her trunk split in half and most of the tree fell right across the road, damaging a car and roof of the house on the other side. Fortunately no one was injured, apart from the tree. Looking at the remaining trunk, there is a considerable length of it that is blackened, indicating that the tree had already been partially split for some time, perhaps from previous damage or disease. The next day we found the tree had been cut right down to a stump.
The tree is located in a small park area. There are a couple of trees close by that potentially could be linked to this tree through a mycorrhizal network, which exists only a few centimetres below the soil and so is easily disrupted by development or disturbance. In any case, seven weeks later we discovered the tree was sprouting shoots and some healthy leaves from the living layer of the tree just under the bark. This can be clearly seen in the photographs. As far as I can tell, these leaves are definitely the tree’s own growth and not some opportunist saplings. It was heartening to see this new healthy growth after the sadness and shock of seeing the apparent devastation of a fairly large tree. I am hopeful that her life is far from over and in fact, I sense she is more well since the loss of the damaged limbs. She may be diminished in size, but I think not in vitality. Close around her are many small saplings, presumably her children, and it seems likely that she will be connected to them at least, through a mycorrhizal network, and either she is nourishing them, or they are supporting her. Either way, they are all looking well, and now she has cleared a space, her children have room to flourish.
Today, sixteen weeks since she was cut down, I went to take another photograph before the leaves start to fall. I can see she and her sapling family have all had a fine growing spurt over the summer. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress.
©Janey Colbourne 2017