Ash, at treeblog, gave himself a tree-tour of a birthday trip. In the first part of the journey, Birthday Tour (Part 1): Loch Rannoch – the Fortingall Yew – Bridge of Balgie, he meets a truly charismatic ancient tree in a post rich with historical illustration:
The Fortingall Yew is one of the oldest known trees in Europe. Allen Meredith (whose estimates according to The Tree Register Handbook “are as well-informed as anyone’s”) has suggested it could be as old as 5,000 years (along with the yews at Discoed in Powys and Llangernyw in Conwy), which is certainly something to think about. But what I find truly incredible is the gargantuan size it once reached. Forget the Yew as it stands today, so small, so utterly destroyed by ‘tourists’ in the 18th and 19th centuries, and try to wrap your mind around this: in the mid-1700s the Fortingall Yew had a girth of 56 and a half feet (17.2 m): a diameter of 5.5 metres (18 ft)! Consider that the thickest tree in Britain today is probably the Marton Oak with a dbh of 446 cm when measured around the three remaining sections of its trunk (although there are giant sequoias 7 m thick where their flared boles meet the ground). A five-and-a-half metre thick yew is phenomenal!
Readers from outside the U.S. may or may not remember, but Flight 93 was the one hijacked commercial flight on September 11, 2001 that failed to reach its target (presumably Congress or the White House) due to a passenger revolt, crashing in a field in southwest Pennsylvania. The crash site was subsequently turned over to the National Park Service as an official National Memorial. Though dedicated last year, the tree-planting is not yet complete. I’m struck by the scale of it: not just one tree per passenger, but one grove per passenger, as an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reminds us.
This is the second year of the reforestation effort. The goal is to have 150,900 new trees at the location. The Flight 93 memorial includes 40 groves of trees, one grove for each passenger or crew member who died on Sept. 11, 2001 when the plane crashed as the passengers and crew battled terrorists. The memorial is operated by the National Parks Service.
The seedlings were planted by volunteers—more than 500 of them. The website says only that they are “a mixture of several native species.” (The nursery is a little over 100 miles away, so perhaps the genotypes were fairly local in origin.) The memorial groves themselves have already been planted; this subsequent, three-year effort is to provide a windbreak for the groves.
The impulse to memorialize through afforestation seems especially appropriate given the location in Pennsylvania, the only one of the states named for its forests. However, Pennsylvania also has a long history of industrial exploitation, and the Flight 93 site was no exception. As the website points out:
Part of the architect’s vision for the memorial is that it will be a place of renewal. Reclaiming the land after decades of surface mining has left much of it in open grassland.
“Reclaiming” is of course a far cry from true restoration or healing, whence the need for tree-planting. It’s interesting to me that the national trauma of 9/11 has pointed to another trauma, one we ourselves have inflicted upon the land. By tying them together like this, the memorial gains a meta dimension — a woods re-created in part to memorialize itself.
Hats off to Indonesia’s president for showing the kind of leadership that’s sorely lacking from most nations in the global North. As WRIInsights reports:
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision this week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. With this decision, which aims to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands for another two years, the government could help protect valuable forests and drive sustainable development.
Enacted two years ago, Indonesia’s forest moratorium has already made some progress in improving forest management. However, much more can be done. The extension offers Indonesia a tremendous opportunity: a chance to reduce emissions, curb deforestation, and greatly strengthen forest governance in a country that holds some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
Do read the rest, which includes suggestions for ways in which the forest moratorium could be strengthened.
Ash at treeblog used his recent trip to the sad remains of the UK’s second biggest girthed sessile oak to visit two other large and ancient oaks in the same area:
Once I’d seen all there was to see of the uprooted Pontfadog Oak, I got back in the car and headed for home. But only a couple of miles down the road I pulled over to visit two more giant oaks: the Oak at the Gate of the Dead and the Duelling Oak. Both of these veterans grow within a stone’s throw of one another (and right close to the Wales-England border), beside the road linking Pontfadog with Chirk.
The Oak at the Gate of the Dead (Derwen Adwy’r Meirwon in Welsh) is famous, at least locally, for growing at the Pass of the Graves (Adwy’r Beddau). This is thought to be the place where in 1165, during the Battle of Crogen, the forces of Henry II of England were ambushed by the Welsh under Owain Gwynedd.
A new study finds that the terpenes, isoprenes and other chemicals that trees release into the atmosphere help ameliorate the worst effects of global warming. Climate News Network has the story.
The warmer the weather, the greater the likelihood that gas emissions from plants would create conditions for the formation of clouds, which in turn would reflect more sunlight back into space, and thus help damp down global warming.
That is the good news. The not-so-good news is that these plant gas emissions won’t make a great deal of difference – on a global scale they might counter about 1 percent of global warming.
On a regional scale, however, the effect might be much greater: in heavily forested areas – Finland, Siberia and Canada, for instance – where human emissions of aerosols are anyway relatively slight, plant gas releases might counter as much as 30 percent of warming.
Authors Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet have a blog following the progress of their work in progress, The New Sylva. This aims to be an updated version of John Evelyn‘s famous work seventeenth century survey of British trees Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber :
Three hundred and fifty years after Evelyn first published his tour de force, we again realise that there is an important if not unprecedented role for trees, forests and timber in our lives, and with this, an imperative need to refresh our view. As society continues to experience increasing environmental change, trees will become more valued and needed, not only as beautiful plants shaping our landscapes and city parks, affirming our sense of place and heritage, but also as our most green renewable resource, and one of our most important environmental protectors. Trees provide carbon-lean products for construction, heat and energy, while at the same time they can control flooding, soil erosion, and reduce the destructive power of winds. Woodlands help to maintain the quality of our drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife, and play a crucial role in helping biodiversity adapt to climate change.
The New Sylva will bring the essence of John Evelyn’s most celebrated work to a new readership. It will integrate sensitively parts of his original, visionary and very beautiful prose, with a much-needed contemporary review. It will deliver authoritative scholarship in a style that is brief, clear, accessible, and pleasurable to read, and for the very first time, it will be copiously illustrated. The New Sylva will celebrate mankind’s relationship with trees through a creative integration of history, science and art.
One of their blog’s recent posts shows a time lapse film of one of the illustrations in progress – six hours of work reduced to two concentrated minutes!
Naked treehugger Julianne Skai Arbor lends support to the protection of old growth on Vancouver Island
Tragically, people are not connecting our everyday modern consumptive lifestyle with the true cost we are paying for our wood and paper products: habitat destruction and fragmentation, soil erosion, hydrologic disruption, water siltation, wildfire hazards, and extermination of thousands of forest and riparian plant, animal and fungi species. Clearcutted forests are notorious for not being able to recover to their original structure and composition. This all equals the “uglification” and death of Life. We must change our modern value system and our forestry practices worldwide to focus on ecological system integrity.
Canada’s largest Spruce (Picea sitchensis), is The San Juan Sitka Spruce (and also the second largest Spruce in the world). It was with this tree that I did a photo shoot in the rain around the 38 ft (11.6 m) circumference, gazing up at the 205 ft (62.5 m) top. Although this wasn’t my first Sitka Spruce encounter, this was my first making love with a tree in the rain, and it was cold but magnificent embracing the wet moss!
See also the local newspaper article linked in her post, “The naked tree-hugger makes her way to Port Renfrew,” and the artist statement on TreeGirl’s website.
As I drive around the area, I am seeing Madronas blooming profusely everywhere. Along the Highway 20 corridor into Anacortes, the trees are revealed as giant clouds of white blossoms all along the roadway. I had never realized how many Madronas were growing there.
These are special trees to Pacific Northwesterners, and this year, they are really putting on a show for us. The Madrona (also called Madrone and Arbutus) has been correctly described as one of Nature’s works of art. The ‘Lem’s Cameo’ Rhododendron in the foreground of the photo is a Madrona relative.
The tree grew so well, the space available to it became a little congested. At the top of the tree (which, I would guess, is about two feet high) leaves would rise above road level, only to be sheered off by the tyres of cars running over it. It isn’t a busy street so leaves would have time to grow and poke up — but they never lasted.
Have you ever seen a photo of a newborn mammal? The way the light shines through the pink flesh, through the transparent eyelids and through the doughy snouts, a field of stars shining through every new finger and toe?
It shines through the new leaves in the same way.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the leaves…