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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sugar Maples and Tree Surgery

If I take an alternate route home from work, I come to a 4 way stop at a jog in the road so that right in front of me across the intersection is a gigantic sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Most of the time, there is nothing that stands out about the tree; it’s just a big leafy tree.

But then comes the month of October, and the tree is transformed practically overnight into a drop-dead gorgeous specimen of a tree with the perfect combination of golden yellow, red, and orange leaves.

I look at it as I am driving west, so the sun is behind it, making it positively glow. I start looking at it blocks before I actually get to it, and am concerned that one day I might just drive right through the intersection without stopping, because I am looking, no, staring, at the tree. I always hope that no one is behind me when I get to the four way stop, so I can spend a few extra seconds looking at the tree.

Of course, I don’t have a picture of it because I don’t carry my camera with me, but trust me, it is unbelievably beautiful.

My Dad planted several sugar maples throughout our yard, and even though several of them have died and had to be cut out, several remain and are providing my sister and her family, who live there now, with ample opportunity to rake leaves, as much as they would ever want to.

There is one maple tree in the front yard that was almost not meant to be. Decades ago, perhaps 35 years or so ago, my Dad noticed a horizontal crack in the trunk of the tree, at just about my eye level. When there was a good wind blowing, you could see the crack widen a bit with each gust. He was quite concerned that the tree might just snap over someday, and though it may have only been planted 12 – 15 years earlier, it was already fairly large.

So, he decided to secure a splint of sorts to the tree. One of our neighbors was a welder so he provided my Dad with a six foot long, three to four inch wide piece of thick steel with several holes to fit bolts through. My Dad then bolted the steel plate to the tree to secure it where the crack was and painted it over with tar.

Over the years, the bark grew around the steel plate so that now, 30 – 35 years later, you would not know that inside that tree is a steel plate. At least once a year, I remind my brother-in-law that should they ever decide that the tree should be cut down, he has to remember that there is a steel plate in it. And if they ever sell the house, they have to tell whoever buys it about the steel plate in that tree. I shudder to think what kind of kick back you would get back from a chain saw if you tried to saw through that steel!

I am not sure if this was an approved tree surgery technique, but it did the job and the tree is still with us, still providing great fall color, and still contributing lots of fall clean up opportunities.

8 comments:

Earth Girl said...

There are several trees at the Gene Stratton-Porter Wildflower Woods State Historic Site with similar doctoring. About 1914, she hired a pre-eminent tree doctor to "fix" some of the trees in her 40 acres of virgin timber. He filled several hollow trees with concrete. One is still living with the concrete visible. She was concerned about splitting with several multiple trunked trees, so he chained them together. You can still see the chains between the trunks, 80 feet up in the air. If you ever want to take a road trip, just head north several hours. I will be glad to give you a personal tour. (I'm the head gardener.)

Gary said...

That really does sound dangerous. I am going to be removing the rest of the trunk this week of the fifty year old ash tree that is in my back yard. I don't think it has any metal in it, though.

There are few things in this world more beautiful than a really big sugar maple in October. I wish we had them down here in Houston.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

These stories of trees with metal patching and concrete filler are absolutely amazing!

Annie in Austin said...

Since there's a steel plate underneath - could someone stick some decorative, really strong magnets onto that part of the tree? How about an image of a chainsaw with the red circle and line through it:)

I like the story of a tree with the will to survive, and a whole team of guys making it so!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

sister with the homestead said...

Annie,

Never thougth about the magnet idea. I'll have my daughter check it out and get back to you!

Kasmira said...

I bet that tree has a heck of a time getting through security at the airport. *heh heh*

eleanor said...

When we built this house in 1960 there wasn't a tree on it, as was on the edge of a woods. Carol's dad, being the farm boy at heart, started planting all kinds of trees and bushes. Quite a few had been cut down but the big old maple with the steel trunk is still going strong, I grieve every time we have to cut a tree down. I love them.

eleanor said...

When we built this house in 1960 there wasn't a tree on it, as was on the edge of a woods. Carol's dad, being the farm boy at heart, started planting all kinds of trees and bushes. Quite a few had been cut down but the big old maple with the steel trunk is still going strong, I grieve every time we have to cut a tree down. I love them.