The Tuesday tree: the living dead
What is this wreck of a tree, gnarled and skeletal, white as old bones?
When I stumbled upon it yesterday, I felt as if I had met a ghost.
Its trunk is split so deeply down the middle that from some angles you can see daylight on the other side.
It has grown scrabbly nests of twigs on itself, like a spider on caffeine.
It is consumed by woodworm and livid with moss.
But it’s alive.
This creature is a hornbeam, a fairly uncommon tree in Scotland. The natural range of the hornbeam in the British Isles is southern and eastern England. In fact, I am told that this particular specimen is a champion hornbeam, being the
tallest broadest ever recorded so far north (erm, but I don’t know its measurements off the top of my head, so please don’t ask…). Representatives from The Woodland Trust saw it a few years ago and had to go away to revise their ideas about hornbeams in Scotland! Despite its dreadful wound and deathly appearance, it seems to be perfectly healthy, and has been coming into leaf every spring for years.
For another living ruin of a tree, see A scion of the World Tree