Field of Science

Frightfully Beautiful Destruction

This morning dawned to the frightfully beautiful destruction of an ice storm here in Lincolnland. No one can deny the beauty of a glistening, glassy, but very brittle world. It's a wonderland of light with a clacking and cracklely sound. But the destruction wrought by this beautiful sight is so very sad for us tree people. We get emotionally invested in nurturing a tree into an aesthetic component of our gardens and lawns, and the destruction of trees is a real loss not the least of all because a tree that has grown for many years cannot just be replaced. The value and beauty added by time has been lost.

While trees are nearly immortal, they are unfortunately sessile behemoths of biomass and beauty and they cannot escape any environmental ravages that engulf them. Trees have perpetually juvenile tissues, meristems, and they essentially grow a new tree each year around and on top of the old ones.

But no matter how big or how small, wood, that remarkable stuff that trees build as both a vascular and support system, is only so strong. Wood is capable of withstanding some pretty remarkable loads, but the sudden application of a half-inch of ice can stress the support system beyond the breaking point.

Although not a large tree, this quite handsome Japanese maple was shattered beyond any hope of repair. All but one limb was ripped off by the icy weight. This tree had already survived the ravages of yard rats (squirrels), who gnawed off enough bark to nearly girdle the tree. And years later it survived a very late hard freeze that killed all the new foliage and limb growth. But it didn't escape the ice. This fall was its swan song, but who knew what was to befall it.
Decorum and decency, concepts mostly absent from the web, prevent me from posting an image of this maple's dismembered body. RIP Acer japonicum.

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