Ode to a fallen friend

Photo by Joe Villari
Located at our confluence, our beloved beech was the definition of a trooper.
Its root system half pulled out of the Earth by a windstorm decades ago and its trunk since laying horizontally across Catlett’s Branch. Despite this waterlogged existence, it continued to hang on and keep-on-keeping-on for more than a decade.
Sadly, its time had come and it didn’t leaf out during the spring of 2020.
Our tree lived long and hard, an initial victim of circumstance.
But there is no doubt the stress of being repeatedly climbed upon by visitors (this it didn’t mind much, as it appreciated the company) and ocassionally being carved into by vandals (please don’t carve into trees folks, it hurts them!) quickened its demise.
Our noble beech defyed all odds and lovingly endured so many transgressions, but eventually became tired and spent. Unbeknownst to Preserve staff or visitors, in 2019, it leafed out for the last time.
It performed its last Kreb’s cycle and gave up the ghost.
Photo by Joe Villari
Gone in one way, its spirit is very much still here in 2022. Its essence has now begun to enable others and make their lives possible.
This new life currently includes a diversity of saproxylic insects and fungi (saproxylic species being those that depend on dead wood).
It will continue to host this life right up until the unstoppable flow of the stream slowly moves the very last of the tree’s nutrients down stream. This process will take years and provide us all with the chance to observe this process up close.
So, next time you are on our trails, please do take a moment to reflect by the side of Catlett’s Branch. Think of what our beloved beech tree, in its afterlife, is still providing to its community.
Try to keep an eye out for new fungus, lichens, and/or insects that it may be hosting on any particular day. Also watch for lizards and birds hunting and scavenging around its final resting place. Life still abounds.
Pease encourage others to be kind to our native trees and never carve into them. Instead, challenge these folks to make their own positive mark in their own community. To act in the grand spirit of the beech tree that lived and died on Catlett’s Branch.
Photo by Joe Villari

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