I somehow love old trees. Trees with hanging areal roots, trees that are big enough to do a picnic underneath, trees that are tall and strong, with a dark deep chocolaty color to the bark. Bark that are so artful with a variety of textures and patterns and streaks.
One of my favorites was this HUGE tree in three kings church(a beautiful and serene place in Majorda, Goa.) It was I guess 15 – 16 feet tall with huge dangling areal roots that looked like ropes. I’d jump up and try to grab one, and stay up with it. So, we went to Three Kings Church last week. We’d just parked the car. I was fiddling around on the road leading to the site of the church – trying to make a caterpillar climb on the tip of my umbrella — when I heard mamma shout, “Pari COME FAST! This is the biggest wild discovery ever!” So I left the caterpillar on the stony ground and rushed up to her.
And, I gasped – my mouth agape.
That huge tree, with dangling roots, in three kings church, had fallen. There it lay—the big, old, old tree supine on the ground. It’s thick rough bark shining in the evening sun.
For the first few seconds, I just kept looking at it stupefied and bewildered. It was the cyclone. No wonder. It wasn’t just the banana and papaya trees in our yard that were uprooted, the cyclone had much more power to blow off massive trees. I mean, the tree was such a poignant sight—it was so big I had to stand 7-8 feet far to capture it fully. We were all feeling emotional. In whisper~panic tones talking to mamma, I said, “Oh my god! It’s so huge! How did it fall!?” Etc, etc. Gosh, I better share the pictures, it’s just too earth-shattering to me!
Wow, look at it! This tree must be so old, isn’t it? Its beautiful roots stuck out from the top, touching the ground. My, it’s leaving behind so many memories. This tree must have seen so many seasons, reasons, thunders and storms. It must have housed so many worms! (woohoo, that rhymed!) All those years, the tree stood its ground, and now it’s time to move on.
When we came home, we stumbled upon a picture from when we had gone 3 months back to Three Kings Church. And, we found this same tree, standing tall and erect then. But then, something stuck out at us. Here’s the interesting part : We could notice that the tree was leafless even then. It seems it was even dying. So it was not just the cyclone. The cyclone was just a small reason for the tree to fall. Then what could it be? We started discussing, and researching about what are the possible reasons that the old tree died. Yup, this tree was old, that’s clear. But did it dye due to old age? Or were there other reason/factors? Bullzeye! Some stunning things came up during our research.
Do trees die of old age? Maybe they are immortal?
- Trees usually die from disease, and environmental factors. But, to say that trees die of old age isn’t as straight forward. As this article says: Old age is a secondary cause. When a tree gets old, it has trouble protecting most of its inner heartwood, and the exterior. This means, it cannot fight damage as well as when it was younger. It’s the same as humans and other animals. As we age, our immune system becomes weaker and its tough to fight infections.
2. When trees/woody plants face damage, they compartmentalize the damaged part sealing it off from the rest of the plant. They do this, so that the damage doesn’t spread wider, deeper, and downward or upward. This is called CODIT.
3. Now, when a tree gets extremely old, it begins to lose this ability to compartmentalize which ultimately causes the tree to die. The damage can spread to inner heart wood and make the tree completely hollow. I’m guessing this is what happened to this tree at Three Kings Church? Quite likely.
Sufiana(my 1 and a half year old sister) was really happy. She was picking up branches, climbing the tree.
Can trees grow forever?
That makes me think, here we’re talking that the tree loses it’s ability to compartmentalize. But if, you grow the tree in favorable conditions, will it keep growing forever? Will it not die? Now this question, brought mamma and me to another stunning piece of research…
“What we found was the exact opposite,” says Nate Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, based in California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. “Tree growth rate increases continuously as trees get bigger and bigger,” Stephenson says.
Nate Stephenson and his team examined nearly, 700,000 trees and concluded “while trees did stop getting taller, they continued to get wider – packing on more and more mass the older they got”.
Nathan Phillips, a scientist at Boston University says that:
“When it comes to growth in trees – sky’s the limit.”
He infact wonders the same question that we’ve been mulling over:
“Can trees have the potential to live forever? How long a tree would live if you could prevent it from being blown down or succumbing to drought or disease?”
The answer seems to be that trees grow indeterminately, meaning that with the right conditions, they can grow and grow and grow, with only the laws of physics limiting their height. When they grow up to a height that’s too much for the roots to send enough water all the way up to the leaves, photosynthesis is hampered. Overtime, the vertical growth stops and instead they start growing wider! And yup, at an ever-increasing rate! That’s right, trees actually grow faster as they age – the above study by Nate Stephenson and his team concludes.
Why Grow So Tall, When The Roots Can’t Send Up Enough Water?
Today afternoon, this was the topic of discussion in the kitchen. If roots can’t send nutrition to a tree for it’s very tall (it’s tough to reach that far up), then why grow that tall?
What’s the advantage in height? Why do trees get motivated to reach the skies?
The answer is clear and simple. For example, when you’re standing in a crowd and there’s some show going on in the middle of it—if you’re not as tall as other people, you’ll try to tiptoe and watch above other people’s heads. The same thing happen with trees. Around a tree which is short, if there are other trees around it which are tall, it will not get sun. By growing taller, it can reach for more sun—and try to be the highest in the forest canopy. So that way, it will get a very good amount of sun—which is very useful for photo synthesis. So, it’s a technique for survival in the wild, wild world of forest where there’s lot of competition.
Who Are Those Giants and Old Ones? Where Are They?
Prodded by these questions and findings, Mamma started finding out about the oldest living trees on Earth. And what did we find? We were amazed to know that the sun land baobab tree of South Africa is massive—and is more than 6000 years old. And, you’ll be stunned to know – It has a fully equipped and functional bar inside it! Yes, that’s beause it’s hollow inside. Wanna look at it? Here’s this amazing article sharing pictures about it, too.)
And then there are the olive trees – some of them are 4000 to 5000 years old. Similarly red wood trees—considered the tallest among the trees of the world, could have lived forever and ever if they had not been felled.
This interesting article throws light on the tallest, strongest, and most iconic trees in the world.
Sadly, the fact remains that trees most often grow in not-so-favorable conditions. Environment is a determining factor, which can cause a tree to succumb – cyclonic winds, drought, poorly draining soils, salty soils, air and ground pollution, extreme heat or cold – though some species of trees adapt well to such poor conditions, many will fail. Harmful insects and diseases can lead to untimely death. Or, death in old age. Trees may also die to the axe – for timber.
So you see old age is not a primary cause. Trees that survive the odds and live to old age will go through a slow dying process that may take centuries to complete! (In long lived species.)
Wow, trees are something else. They are the epitome of nature and Gods creation. We all felt so moved by the death of this tree…
It’s leaving behind memories, gratitude, thank yous, love. Wait what? Yup, you guessed it! I made this tree art in memory of the fallen tree! This art, is a tribute to the giant at Three Kings Church.
I’d actually gotten my dream art things – clear stamps, ink pads, acrylic blocks. For the first time. I was so giddy, everyday I’d come sit in my cuddly studio and take out my little box of stamps and ink pads and acrylic block. I wanted to finally do something with it, ‘coz everyday I was just stamping with it on a scrap notebook and doing a ‘fake tutorial’ on how to stamp. Had I told you before – I love making videos? Anyway, hence, I made this beautiful art. I’m not bragging, am I?
You notice the beautiful shine—on the bird? Yup, I did that with my glossy accents bottle. It’s a dimensional medium. Awesome, right? It adds a little interest to a piece of art, and does not even take long to dry.
Highlight this white text to know the answer! Exciting, huh? I love highlighting white text like this. My friend Khiyali, she used this trick, and I’ve been liking this ever since. Highlight it till the vertical lines.
| It’s the branch of the fallen tree! Mamma loves branches, so she got few from that tree. | |People had chopped the ends of the tree, so Mamma picked it up. Cool, huh? 🙂|
You got it! Ha ha! Shocking, right? It was mamma, the genius’s idea to place the art on top of the branches and bark. Mamma, is mamma. Right!?
This was my third Wild Discovery. Have you read about the first and second ones, yet? If not, check these out. Fascinating those finds were!
#WildDiscovery No: 1: Micorrhiza – An Organic Gardener’s Best Friend
#WildDiscovery No: 2: Tropical Cyclones – What Happens When You’re In The Grip Of It
And hey, our Facebook group for this nature exploration has 40+ enthusiastic members. They’re all sharing their own Wild Discoveries. I learned about Caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly, Moss, Jewel Bug and much more. The people in this group are all fun to interact with. Do join Wild Discoveries if you’d like to explore and participate with us every week until October 4.
Some more pictures of the tree and the surroundings:
P.S – Mamma helped me put the the research part together. We referrd to so many ariticiles and youtube videos that summarising it wasn’t easy. But sitting with her, trying to capture the essence, helped me learn how to write such an article.