Do trees eat bicycles, fences and any old iron?
Well yes, and no! Trees frequently grow around objects, the most common of which are metal fences. The living tree has the most amazing capacity for self-repair and it will simply incorporate foreign objects into its structure. This act of edaphoecotropism
, as it is called, is not harmful to the tree. The living tissue of the tree itself simply flows around an object and engulfs it. In so doing, the tree binds itself to the item and the connection actually becomes stronger as time passes. If you were to carve back the tree, you would find that the item inside will still be perfectly formed, not eaten but merely consumed!
You can clearly see how this young oak tree has engulfed the iron fence against which it was growing.
There have been incidences of trees engulfing bicycles
, including what has become known as the bicycle tree, close to a former blacksmiths shop in Brig OTurk, Trossachs, Scotland. Not only did this sycamore tree 'eat' a bike which was left propped against it, possibly when its owner went off to war, but it is believed the tree has also swallowed an anchor and a horses bridle.
Theres no doubt that trees are remarkable living things. The oldest specimen is believed to be a Pinus longaeva, bristlecone pine,
growing in the Inyo National Forest, California. Experts have dated this tree to an age over 5000 years old. The oldest tree in the UK is said to be a yew, Taxus baccata, situated in a churchyard in Perthshire, Scotland. It is estimated to have lived for up to 3000 years.
Perthshire, Scotland, home of the UK's oldest yew tree.
That period of history is hard to visualise, but it sits within the middle Bronze Age period when copper and bronze were used by prehistoric Britons in order to make tools. Agriculture was just being used for food production and monuments at Avebury and Stonehenge were built.
The Bronze Age Stonehenge in Somerset. Amazing to think that some of our oldest trees were alive at that time.
Why are trees so great, in all senses of the word? They are actually vital to the planet, being the biggest plants of all. They provide oxygen, store carbon, anchor the soil and provide stability, they provide life for wildlife, filter water and air, absorb pollution and even provide materials for shelter, tools and warmth.
Ancient and modern we need more
We need more woodland despite the beautiful, green and leafy view from your aeroplane window seat when you jet off on holiday abroad. New woodlands are few and far between, with figures showing that numbers are well below recommended targets. Data from the Forestry Commission
reveals that only 1500 hectares (3,700 acres) of woods were planted in England last year, and this is well below the 5000 hectares which has been recommended by the Government.
Young trees, teenage trees, old and veteran trees, we need them all!
Our protection of ancient woodland
has been very poor up until now, but this is set to change as the true value of trees is realised. Experts say that veteran trees are 'irreplaceable'. Ancient woodland takes hundreds of years to establish. The ancient woodland classification applies to any area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600AD. In addition, The National Planning Policy Framework protects ancient wood pastures, historic parkland and other heritage assets.
This ancient hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) sits on the Scotney Castle estate in Kent. Experts believe that the tree is more than 500 years old.
Planning permission and trees
ancient and aged trees have great cultural, historical and landscape importance and they are now highlighted as part of the planning application process. Council members often advise the refusal of planning permission for developments which necessitate the felling of such trees.
The Northern Forest plan
The Woodland Trust
has long called for flexible programmes providing grants for small and larger areas of woodland creation. At last the Government has published a 25 Year Environment Plan to kick start the creation of a Northern Forest
and made it easier for landowners to apply for various grant schemes.
Garden trees are valuable too! Almost everyone can plant a tree, even if they only have a courtyard or a balcony.
Meanwhile, garden-owners can help. Every garden should have a tree
! You can plant container-grown trees during summer provided you water regularly or wait until the bare root season
to keep costs and maintenance down.
Visit Perfectplants.co.uk for all your gardening needs