The Tuesday tree: the serpent-rooted beech
What is there not to like about beech trees? Apart, that is, from their wood being particularly dense and heavy, so you wouldn’t want a beech tree falling on top of you. (Mind you, any old tree falling on top of you wouldn’t be good news, I suppose. Heaven forfend.) And beech trees have shallow root systems, which makes them vulnerable to high winds. Since the storms, I must admit, I do look up a little warily at the old beeches as I walk underneath them: they don’t seem as permanent as once I thought.
Nevertheless, beeches remain some of my favourite trees. They have probably featured more than any other kind of tree in these Tuesday posts: in fact, it was a beech that was my inaugural Tuesday tree. Today I am looking at that same individual tree, but at its roots rather than its grey, sweeping branches. The sinuous roots of ancient beeches are a thing of beauty in themselves. Tennyson described beech as ‘serpent-rooted’ and I do see what he means, although there is no sinister undertone intended, I think.
Growing on a steepish bank, this beech has buttressed itself beautifully against the sloping earth. It looks almost as if it is made of many slim trunks melded together, like the great trees you get in tropical jungles. My faithful spaniel sits dutifully once more in the photo below to act as a sort of ‘scale model’, giving you an idea of the size of the root system. (As you can see, she would much rather be investigating the interesting smells at the top of the bank.)
If I am being prosaic, it is because I am trying to avoid going off into lyrical and mystical excess. Beeches, you see, seem to me anything but prosaic. Dreams may be woven into these meandering, mysterious roots. I’ll leave you with a couple more photos without further comment: in these roots, you may weave your own dreams.
There are more mossy roots in Morning sun in the beech woods.