Monday, July 2, 2012

Drought's First Casualty

I heard "CRAACK!" and turned just in time to see this fully-leafed branch from the huge twin oak peel off and land, completely blocking our only access road. Thank God I wasn't under there and my car was garaged. My neighbor and I were now trapped so I phoned the handymen at once. They said, first thing in the morning. With time to inspect it I tried to find out what had gone wrong with a branch that looked healthy.

What looks like interior rot is the tree's heartwood, and in any tree it's dead already, having done its job. As you know, a tree feeds itself through the wood just beneath the bark, and its concentric rings are what hold it up. It's like a hollow metal pole; its strength doesn't depend on its core. I didn't see real rot. And a sick or bug-infested branch wouldn't have such healthy greenery.

It was, however, a horizontal branch on a very old tree, richly weighted with other leafy branches, after two consecutive years of severe drought. In June we didn't get a full inch of rain here (the city got a bit more than we did). Our towns cancelled Independence Day fireworks for the first time ever because of the fire hazard, and I hope the kids shooting off fireworks for fun aren't doing it anywhere near our dry-as-dust woods and fields.

Where the branch peeled away
Next morning the handymen chainsawed the branch and also amputated the branch from the redbud across the lane that broke beneath the weight of the oak branch. The twin oaks must be among the oldest trees on the property; they are 80 feet high at least and a glorious sight as you drive up toward the house. Branches do fall from them sometimes, but usually only dead ones. Hope not to see any more like this.

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