The stubborn persistence of trees

It has been a four seasons in a day kind of week. Floods, gales, sun, heavy showers blowing up on vicious north-west wind. No snow yet, though the forecasters say it’s only a matter of time. Even this weather can be lovely, especially if you are seeing it from behind glass:Everything is soaked, and there’s nothing I can do in the garden, without leaving a quagmire behind. I’ve shifted my efforts to my small patch of woodland. Much of it is bog, and useless for growing anything but nettles and alder, but there is a dry spot at the top, which is planted with young birch and Scots pine. I’ve been thinning out the weaker brethren and taking the lower branches off the birchesOne day, this will be a sunny birch wood, full of birdsong, carpeted with moss, where fauns gambol happily in the Spring…..….and where grey squirrels are hung up by the hind legs and roasted over a slow fire….
The grey squirrel is a public menace, with an unfortunate liking for stripping the bark from beech and sycamore. The damage is random and extensive. Grey squirrels attack mature trees as readily as young ones, and they don’t even eat the bark, but just leave it scattered in piles beneath the tree. It’s probably a sexual thing – the woodland equivalent of adolescent males binge-drinking on a Saturday night. Show me a grey squirrel being lovingly fed nuts by some old dear in a public park, and I’ll show you a ruthless, cunning, predatory coloniser only good for the stew pot. Luckily, the fluffy animals protection society has yet to triumph, and I am still allowed to use most methods to get rid of them, short of explosives or crossbows. (Not that it is easy).But, for all that, trees persist. You can see how the fresh wood is curling around the squirrel damage, and will eventually cover it, provided the rot stays away. Trees aren’t flippity-gibbet types to keel over at the first hint of frost, or to regard a mere decade or two as a suitable life-span for a plant. They have huge resources stored up, and deploy them to keep going:This birch lost its top in a gale several years ago. The trunk is half-rotten and pitted with holes where the woodpeckers have been at it. It ought to be dead. But it’s still pushing out young growth from the base, and even from the top, trying to turn itself back into a tree again. I haven’t the heart to cut it down and turn it into firewood.The bark on the trunk of this old beech has cracked and flaked, and a lot of rich humous has filtered into the crevices. So the tree has pushed out a set of new roots from five feet up the trunk to take advantage of the nutrients (I peeled some of the bark to show off the structure better). Finally:This Douglas fir seedling has rooted itself on an old rotten stump. It is surrounded by  beech seedlings trying to grab all its light. But despite its increasingly perilous position as the stump crumbles beneath it, it’s still in the fight. I might help it out. On the other hand, I suspect it knows best…

16 thoughts on “The stubborn persistence of trees

  1. I loathe grey squirrels, Mr K. They may strip the bark off trees but it’s their habit of gnawing into nestboxes and eating young birds that has turned me against them. I envy you any time spent pottering about in woodland. It has to be my favourite past-time.

  2. ” (I peeled some of the bark to show off the structure better)”, are you exhibiting grey squirrel behaviour? Joke.

  3. I read that the squirrels are accessing the sapwood, sort of peeling the tree so they can eat under the bark. I haven’t seen that here, at least not on a big tree. Sometimes we have surface damage on small trees, like baby fruit trees. You might benefit from a terrier, or even a sturdy cat or two. We don’t feed squirrels (or birds, except in snow) but we do consider them wildlife. Max considers them something to catch. In his 7 years he has caught (and instantly killed) only three. But he always chases them and that discourages them in the gardens. He also digs up the mole holes and tunnels so they move out. Useful dog.

    I’m certainly looking forward to the faun photographs!

    • Well Linnie, I suppose squirrels are wildlife, but then so are slugs and wasps. The fact of being wildlife does not make them desirable in my books. To put it another way, there is quite a lot of wildlife that I could do without, and grey squirrels come close to top of this list. I shall refrain, of course, from pointing out that they are yet another import from your half of the planet, just like pumpkins and hurricanes. I hope you feel bad about this. You may have to wait a long time for the faun photograph….

      • I KNEW you would say that thing about squirrels being mine. OK then that little Douglas fir is also mine. And so are chocolate chip cookies and jazz. (I don’t really like jazz all that much but I have a secret chocolate chip cooky recipe and you can’t have it.) Really Kininvie you shouldn’t blame me for all these things when I am so innocent almost always.

        • Linnie, I did say that I would refrain from pointing it out, which I thought was good of me. But there is such a thing as collective responsibility, and you have to take the rough with the smooth. That said, I agree that chocolate chips are a good idea, as are Douglas Firs and some of your East coast azaleas. Whether they compensate in toto for the pumpkins and the hurricanes, not to mention baby showers and sorority rings, is debatable…

          May I commend to you the latest addition to my blogroll – himself from Blackpitts – which I guess you may enjoy.

  4. Look I have some problems with moles… I’m not sure if garlic is in the recipe or not… Such a dilemma. What do you reckon?

    I think your young trees are doing pretty well, despite squirrels, gales, hurricanes and falling pumpkins. I wouldn’t bother too much, you just keep the ground clean and let nature do what’s its best: surviving. (that was deep, wasn’t it?)

  5. I’ve got greenhouse envy. I don’t have the space for one unfortunately. I loved the photos of your trees. I find trees so fascinating. I’ve just been to National Arboretum at Westonbirt and written a post about my day there.

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