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The Tuesday tree: the serpent-rooted beech

January 24, 2012

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.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 8:05 pm

    Oh, DB, these roots are worthy of the Entwood or the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts. They should lead down to some mysterious space beneath the forest floor…..

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      January 24, 2012 10:26 pm

      Yes, yes, exactly! And no doubt they do indeed lead there…if only at the metaphysical level.

  2. January 24, 2012 10:50 pm

    On lovely footing here. (Can we pretend that’s spring slowly creeping up the trunk?)

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      January 25, 2012 11:58 am

      What a lovely image. That green is gorgeous, isn’t it? I think we could allow it to be spring creeping up – after all, there are snowdrops in flower on the bank, just a few feet away from these green roots.

  3. Liz permalink
    January 25, 2012 12:33 pm

    When our children were little we used to make fairy houses in beech roots: they rather lend themselves to it.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      January 25, 2012 6:10 pm

      How lovely, what a perfect setting for fairy houses. There is certainly some kind of resonance in these trees.

  4. Erika W. permalink
    January 25, 2012 3:26 pm

    Whoof! You have reminded me of a dreadful family experience which turned out not to be dreadful at all. My daughter came home from work one afternoon and thought “The kitchen seems very dark” She sauntered outside. Their house in Central Texas is surrounded by massive oaks, and saw that half of one of these had crashed down just missing the roof. Then she heard a cry and saw her husband’s hand wiggling from underneath. She called 911 and paramedics–of which he is a volunteer–and they craned,sawed and levered him out. He was unharmed, snugly beneath a crook in the huge branches. Bruised and scratched in body and mind but otherwise fine.

    He and friends spent two days busily trimming back all overhangs and testing out healthiness of at least 20 equally large, looming trees.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      January 25, 2012 6:09 pm

      Oh, goodness, what a terrifying experience. It makes me feel wobbly just to read about it! Thank heavens the tree managed to protect him in its fall. We have cut back any large trees that are close to the buildings here, but of course I walk and drive under them daily. The local tree surgeon keeps a close eye on their health, insofar as he can in a heavily wooded landscape – other than that, you just have to hope for the best!

  5. October 17, 2013 12:24 pm

    Such a beautiful, natural sculpture! I love the way the moss has highlighted the ‘serpents’. Certainly somewhere for dreams to be woven!


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